By Linda Baumann
Within weeks of the first known coronavirus death in California, the state was in lockdown and all but essential workers either lost their jobs or were temporarily furloughed. Besides such trivial consequences as not knowing how many months it would be before their next haircut, millions of Americans suddenly found themselves without healthcare: during a global pandemic, in the face of a deadly, apparently highly-contagious pathogen whose victims appear to shed virus even before becoming symptomatic.
Our employer-based healthcare system is to blame, a fact that has only been brought starkly into focus because millions of Americans have been rendered healthcare-less virtually simultaneously. Normally, the majority of Americans don’t notice the uninsured as only unfortunate individuals such as gig workers or temporary employees lack guaranteed healthcare.
Another counter-intuitive phenomenon has been the financial distress of many hospitals during the pandemic. Under our for-profit healthcare system, medical care must generate its operating capital from the services it provides. With routine patient care as well as elective medical procedures on hold during the lockdown, hospital income is reduced. This has meant layoffs or reduced hours for medical personnel. Rural communities, that are normally underserved because they don’t generate enough income to support a hospital, have become especially vulnerable during the pandemic.
Currently, Californians are covered by one of 11 health insurance companies, nationally by one of over 900 private insurance companies, all of which are profit dependent if they are to survive. Your health is not their primary concern. Replacing this with one healthcare insurer would eliminate vast redundancy and waste. Disengaging one’s health insurance from one’s employment has many benefits: leaves one the freedom to leave an unsatisfactory job, provides affordable insurance for people who are self employed, is universal, protects individuals and families from ruin in the case of a medical catastrophe.
So, let us learn from this pandemic. Join those of us who believe there is a reason that the rest of the industrialized world relies on some sort of single payer healthcare system, where care takes precedent over profit. There are Healthcare For All chapters all over California, including Davis. Take this time to investigate and consider joining.
Register to attend the virtual meeting of Healthy CA for All Commission from 10 AM to noon on June 12. Call Governor Newsom and your state legislators to voice your support for a single payer plan. Your health and your finances will benefit from your activism.