As the coronavirus (COVID-19) winds its way through every aspect of our American lives, it continues to find and slither through all of the holes in the American system. And as Donald Trump blunders his way through attempting to lead us through this crisis, he is finding decreasing success with his go-to tactics of deception, gaslighting, subject-changing, and hyperbole. Coronavirus has brought to light numerous undeniable ways in which our system has failed.
What those who have been the victims of our system’s failures have experienced for years, is now, finally, being felt by many who were previously cushioned from it.
Clearly, health care, how we pay for it, and who gets it is at the top of the list of what’s badly broken in America. For years, a lot of people who had comfortable and affordable insurance plans through their employers didn’t tend to give health care availability much thought. Some even saw it as a privilege instead of a basic right. Suddenly, however, due largely to our administration’s ineptness at managing testing for coronavirus, even those with gold-level health care coverage are finding it difficult or impossible to obtain a test, even if they can pay for it.
For those without health care coverage, the availability of testing is a moot point. As those in charge are finally beginning to acknowledge, this population are not only in danger if they contract coronavirus, but they are also a danger to others. The inability to pay for a doctor visit, let alone possible hospitalization and treatment (and the current difficulty in obtaining a test) undoubtedly leaves many with the virus to make guesses, possibly carry on with their lives as normal, and spread the illness to others.
People who don’t have health care coverage are often people who fall through the cracks and are ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Many of them work in the service industry, live paycheck-to-paycheck, and have no paid sick leave or paid time off. They will go to work, even sick, because they have to. If they contract the coronavirus, they’ll spread it to others at work.
The lack of paid sick leave for hourly employees is hardly a new problem. As with the issue of accessible health care, though, many lawmakers act as if it were a new phenomenon that has just arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As lawmakers and others who have never had to worry about health care or missing a paycheck because of illness become aware of how this also impacts them (and all of us), it has finally occurred to Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress to create legislation to allow hourly employees to take paid time off. No one wants to drink their latte and wonder if the person who served it might be seriously, contagiously ill.
As of Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to pass legislation to provide billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments for food programs and unemployment benefits. This will help.
The portion of the bill that would mandate employers to provide paid sick leave to all workers across the country, however, is still in dispute as of Thursday evening. Democrats would like for the mandate to be permanent, but Republicans are opposing a permanent measure.
The idea that such things as health care for all and paid sick leave should only be reactive and temporary solutions is, in itself, a failure of our system. It illustrates the shortsightedness and unpreparedness with which our government legislates health care.
It demonstrates the way many of us have taken our access to comfort as a given. It underlines how we have, until now, seen the possibility of a health care crisis so monumental that it could paralyze the world economy as nothing short of science fiction. And, as never before, it reveals the now-glaring fact that many of the people who represent Americans in government are not really interested in protecting the health and well-being of their poorer constituents unless the situation, like the coronavirus, poses a threat to them, the lawmakers.
Pelosi, Mnuchin Haggle for Compromise on Virus Relief Bill |
Bloomberg Politics [2020-03-12]
Can the US health care system handle the coronavirus pandemic? l GMA