COVID-19 is getting worse.
More of us are under quarantine, in “containment zones,” self-quarantined, observing “social distances,” using handshake alternatives — and washing our hands more than Lady Macbeth.
Each of us, with these individual actions, can “flatten the curve” of virus transmission. But contrast our results with Taiwan.
In Taiwan (which has a slightly larger population than New York state), there have been only 47 cases of COVID-19 as of this writing, despite its proximity to China. An observer of the system there explained that “the most important thing about crisis management is to prepare for the next crisis.” And so Taiwan, with a single-payer plan similar to the New York Health Act, prepared its response in 2004 after the SARS epidemic.
We need all our legislators — those who support the New York Health Act and those who do not yet support it — to recognize the mortal dangers of our current multi-payer system, decreasing our public health and our financial resilience, putting our most vulnerable neighbors into constant crises, crises that prevent the rest of us from ever being properly prepared for a crisis like COVID-19.
• Many of our neighbors never take sick days because sick days get them fired, making it impossible to buy food and pay rent. Others delay health care — getting sicker — because health care is unaffordable.
• Two-thirds of bankruptcies happen to people who were sure they had good health insurance.
• Some of us — the 50 percent of our neighbors who are on Medicaid — have access only to separate and unequal care, because America rations health care based on income.
• Some 90 percent of our front-line physicians are suffering burnout because they spend half their time on paperwork and have too many patients refusing needed treatment because of cost.
• Hospital costs are the highest in the world because getting reimbursed by for-profit insurers requires more hospital administrators than beds or physicians.
Our legislators should focus our health care dollars on all improving everybody’s physical health, rather than improving the fiscal wealth of for-profit insurers.
COVID-19 proves that none of us are safe unless all of us have better health care. Our legislators need to use their newsletters to rebut fear-mongering propaganda from for-profit insurers and corporate titans who perpetuate scary myths about the New York Health Act.
Inform your constituents that the New York Health Act is:
• Not a government takeover. Like original Medicare, the health act collects funds and pays for health care, as a non-profit. For-profit insurance is one reason Americans pay an average of $2,500 per year just on health care administration. Canadians pay about $500. That’s a lot of additional health care.
• No-hassle, comprehensive health care. Almost all of us will save money when we no longer pay for premiums, deductibles, co-pays, out-of-network, and out-of-pocket charges. Health care will be affordable for all of us. Free for those who make less than $25,000 per year, its cost only increases as we earn more, with only the truly wealthy paying more than we do now.
But all of us will benefit from having chronic illnesses better managed so that we are less at risk for pandemics, or even the common cold.
• Better than any current health care policy in the state. Vetted by rigorously objective economic studies, the health act is designed to ensure our public health gets the greatest possible bang for our bucks. No public or private policy offers benefits as good. Benefits designed to increase both the length and quality of our lives. Benefits that emphasize prevention, patient wellness and patient education, so we can afford health care when we need it, not just when New York declares a state of emergency.
It’s not enough for our legislators to salve this crisis with short-term balms. They must explain that the New York Health Act so many sponsor will give us prescriptions, vision, dental, hearing, reproductive and long-term care so that we will be prepared to avoid the next health care crisis before it takes hold.
The late Uwe Reinhardt, a renowned health care economist who advised the Taiwanese government before they adopted their single-payer plan in 1995, argued that “universal health care is not a matter of economics, it’s a matter of soul.”
COVID-19 clinches that argument. It’s a matter of lives.
Health care is a common good. We need it for ourselves and our neighbors. And we need it yesterday.