Southern Discomfort Podcast, November 13, 2020
The federal response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic under President Trump has been a public health disaster with more than 230,000 Americans dead and no clear end in sight.
In sharp contrast, President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to mount a serious response against the coronavirus. Biden recently announced a panel of health care experts to begin to counter a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the country.
On the matter of health reform, however, the president-elect has offered measures that would merely bolster and even expand the same private health insurance system that has prompted physicians and other frontline healthcare workers to feel like they are fighting COVID-19 with one hand tied behind their backs.
Biden ran on returning the country to normalcy but there was nothing normal about the American healthcare system before the pandemic. The truth is our dysfunctional medical system remains an outlier among the rest of the so-called developed world.
The United States produces some of the worst health outcomes in the industrialized world and devours an ever-increasing share of our economy with health spending accounting for an astounding 17.9 percent of the GDP with nothing to show for it. As many as 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. That’s more than the amount of people who have died from COVID-19.
Is that the kind of return to normalcy that Americans want, need or deserve?
The answer, of course, is no.
Poll after poll has shown that Americans want a universal, single-payer healthcare system that is focused on meeting human needs and not the needs of investors.
Medical care under a single-payer system, usually referred to as Medicare for All, would be universal, meaning everyone in the United States, including undocumented immigrants, would have equal access to treatment; it would be free at the point of care since there would be no premiums and no cost-sharing; and unlike our current Medicare program for seniors, vision, dental and long-term-care services would be covered, too.
There are few parts of the country that would benefit from Medicare for All more than the South.
The coronavirus pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to make sweeping changes to our social welfare system like Medicare for All but they are destined to fail without the support of people living in the South.
Private health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and banks, which have ensnared millions of Americans indebted by medical expenses, stand to lose too much if America moves to a single-payer system. They have and will continue to fight tooth-and-nail to keep the money flowing for as long as they can.
In this week’s episode, host Jonathan Michels speaks with Rita Valenti to talk about the ways that the South is particularly unprepared to withstand the coronavirus pandemic and how Southerners can and must be at the forefront of the Medicare-for-All movement. For the last 40 years, Valenti has been on the front lines of the fight for health equity as a nurse and as a fierce advocate for single payer as a board member of Healthcare—NOW!.
For a transcription of this episode, please click here.
- “Southern Workers Unite Around Medicare for All: ‘A Tremendous Liberation From Your Boss’” article about a worker-led campaign to mobilize Southerners around Medicare for All
- Southern Workers Medicare for All Campaign
- “Immigrants allege mistreatment by Georgia doctor and whistleblower” investigative report about the Georgian doctor accused of forcibly sterilizing immigrant women at the Irwin Detention Center
- “Masks, Gowns, and Medicare For All” article about how Medicare for All would benefit frontline healthcare workers