Like all of you, we are wondering when we can go to a restaurant, when we will feel safe going to the essential businesses that remain open.
A friend is in danger of bankruptcy because his business in the desert is required to be closed but his landlord still wants rent. How will people survive and how can we help them? I wish I had answers.
We can just hope that people will go back to work safely and pay their rent and be able to buy food to feed their families. But one group of people, I am afraid, will not fare so well.
We have all heard about those who survived after 10 days on a ventilator, have weathered the quarantine and got to hold their newborn, have telecasted from their basements while hoping their families didn’t get infected. But how many of those people are going to end up with bills that they can’t pay and end up declaring bankruptcy?
Previous pandemics have resulted in changes when they revealed social contracts that didn’t work for our citizens. This pandemic likewise shows a fatal flaw in our approach to health care, namely: Tying health insurance to employment is irrational.
Of course, we knew that before. But it is now much worse for the people who have lost their jobs. We have heard ad nauseam the promotions from the health insurance industry about the 150 million people who had jobs that provided health insurance and supposedly loved it, but 60 million of them changed jobs every year and therefore had to change insurance.
Those people faced new networks and deductibles and copays and lists of approved drugs — con games that have accompanied the profiteering and administrative excesses that have made the medical industrial complex so lucrative for so many.
When the linking of insurance to employment took a giant leap forward during World War II because of wage controls that exempted some perks like insurance, it was a different era.
Such is not the case now! Add to that the huge increase in unemployment that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic and we end up with a system that is nonsensical for the majority of Americans who cannot afford a surprise $400 bill.
The joy that those who survived a long hospital stay, perhaps in the ICU, will be muted somewhat when they receive bills for many thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars that will force them into bankruptcy — bills that we all pay.
How much simpler would it be to finance health care with payroll taxes akin to Medicare but covering everyone, allowing the government to negotiate rates for care and drugs that are reasonable, avoiding bankruptcies, drastically decreasing the number of pencil-pushers and administrators and recognizing the simple fact that, in the wealthiest country in the world, health care is a basic, affordable, human right?
Most recognize the value in that approach and know we will get there eventually. I hope it is not too late for those most impacted by these difficult times.