My Turn: We need single payer more than ever

Published: 5/3/2020 12:53:25 PM

I was concerned about the health care crisis in our country before the coronavirus pandemic, but now the need for a single-payer system is obvious to almost everyone. With regard to testing for coronavirus, it has even been implemented! Then what? Someone tests positive but can’t afford treatment? That’s crazy! We need to see Medicare for All implemented in full for everybody immediately. The current “system” of private insurance and public subsidies is a nightmare and has resulted in 45,000 preventable deaths a year, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, even though we spend considerably more on health care than other industrialized nations.

Before this crisis, one of the leading causes of bankruptcy has been soaring medical bills. What now? Without a single-payer system, we will see an exponential increase in bankruptcies as tens of thousands of people are thrown out of work. Never mind hospital emergencies, people will not even be able to pay the exorbitant premiums that our for-profit insurance companies demand.

The confusion and lack of coordination between public and private providers is only making things worse. In Spain, the government seized control of private health care providers, including privately run hospitals, to manage the demand for treatment for patients with COVID-19. And in the U.S., allocating personnel and supplies is extremely difficult due to a system based on competition and not cooperation. Competition has its place, but in life and death situations? Really?

And the pharmaceutical industry? It should be nationalized after the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that spending on prescription medications is higher in the U.S., per capita, than in any other country in the world. Drug companies are among the most profitable U.S. corporations, spending more on marketing than research.

We cannot go back to “business as usual” after this pandemic wanes. We must move toward “business as unusual” and start addressing the crisis in health care as well as the many other issues that are allowing our democracy to become a plutocracy. Profiteering companies that are jacking up prices on critical items that we need to fight this pandemic should be nationalized. Since this is obviously not going to happen, states should create their own facilities to produce masks, ventilators and whatever else is needed. (A team at MIT is developing a low cost, open-source ventilator that will become available soon.)

And here’s what we must do right now:

■Address the employment crisis by providing immediate financial relief, including maintaining paychecks and distributing monthly checks for every person in the country;

■Guarantee paid health care for all for the entirety of the crisis;

■Use the Defense Production Act to make necessary equipment;

■Make sure no one goes hungry;

■Provide emergency aid to cities and states;

■Suspend monthly payments for four months, including rent, mortgages, medical debt and consumer debt collection.

It would’ve been wonderful if the occupant of the White House came up with this list; it would’ve been great if Biden came up with this list. But, not surprisingly, it was Bernie.

David Greenberg lives in Colrain and is active with Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution.


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