America’s For-Profit Healthcare System Perfectly Designed to Help Coronavirus Spread

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Workers disinfecting the subway in Tehran ( Zoheir Seidanloo)

aturday marked the first death of an American from the coronavirus, which is rapidly reaching pandemic levels. And we approach this disaster with the most incompetent, science-averse administration in history in office.

President Donald Trump has stacked his cabinet with Christian fundamentalists, such as Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Bill Barr. Pence managed to exacerbate an HIV outbreak in Indiana because he didn’t take swift action on a needle exchange program. He also doesn’t believe in evolution or climate change and once said that smoking was harmless. Naturally, Trump tapped him to head up the fight against the coronavirus!

Trump’s cabinet is also full of cronies who were hired because of their political connections, not because of their competence. Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar, a former pharma executive and lobbyist who has no medical training, recently said he couldn’t confirm if the coronavirus antidote would be affordable. However, this signifies a bigger problem, the for-profit American healthcare system is simply not set up to handle national healthcare emergencies.

Here are the reasons why:

  • In America, healthcare is treated as a luxury, not a necessity. If you’re too poor to afford it, you don’t get it. I fall into that category since I’m a contract worker and, even with Obamacare, I still can’t afford the monthly health insurance premiums. I’m not the only one. There are 44 million other Americans in the same boat, according to PBS. For people like us, it’s either pay your rent, or pay for insurance, and rent will always come first. This is a disaster when it comes to dealing with a public health crisis. Miami resident Osmel Martinez Azcue went to the emergency room after he fell ill on returning from China. He got hit with a more than $3,000 bill! This infernal situation encourages people not to seek treatment and that will only allow the disease to incubate and spread.
  • America’s for-profit healthcare system operates on the policy of getting patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible. The longer they are in hospital, the more it costs the insurance company. Long hospital stays mean reduced profits for health insurance executives. Health insurance companies have a financial incentive to get you back on the street, whether you’re healthy or not.
  • America also has crappy sick leave policies. Many Americans are contract workers or don’t have liberal sick leave policies. Workers often have slave-driving bosses who frown on them using sick leave, even if they have it. So when they get sick, they drag their asses to work — — and infect more people. This is definitely not the best way to handle a contagious disease.

A healthcare system run by bean counters and stingy sick leave policies are literally the marriage made in hell when it comes to handling a contagious disease. And combine that with a bumbling, semi-literate president, who’s incapable of telling the truth, and you have the perfect ingredients for a disaster.

There are 44 million other Americans in the same boat, according to PBS. For people like us, it’s either pay your rent, or pay for insurance, and rent will always come first. This is a disaster when it comes to dealing with a public health crisis. Miami resident Osmel Martinez Azcue went to the emergency room after he fell ill on returning from China. He got hit with a more than $3,000 bill! This infernal situation encourages people not to seek treatment and that will only allow the disease to incubate and spread.

When Trump gave his initial coronavirus press conference he said there were only 15 cases when there were actually 60. He also said the numbers were dwindling, but now we have a fatality. Trump also mentioned eliminating ebola by “disintegrating” it. World Health Organization special adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel declared Trump’s press conference “incoherent.” In addition, a healthcare whistleblower is claiming that healthcare workers who accompanied evacuees back from China didn’t follow the proper quarantine measures and were allowed to return to the general population!

I’m not trying to be a doom and gloom merchant. I’m just laying out the facts, America’s political and healthcare systems are not equipped to handle this crisis. Aren’t Trump supporters supposed to like people who “tell it like it is?”

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Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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