Editorial: Health care going forward


The ISD Editorial Board calls attention to the broken health care system in the U.S.

Editorial Board

 As states begin to reopen and case numbers of COVID-19 decrease, American citizens must consider the lasting impacts this global pandemic will have on our country. Daily lives will likely never look the same, as working and learning online becomes commonplace and we learn to follow a new community ethic that involves social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing while in public places. Political viewpoints are changing as people on both sides of the spectrum become more open to social safety net programs, such as the CARES Act, and fight for new labor policies. Even personal attitudes are changing; American citizens either rebuke or embrace xenophobia, navigate mental health issues that can come with social distancing and come to appreciate the importance of the essential worker.

The impacts of COVID-19 on our country are many, but perhaps the most concerning is the impact most directly related to the virus: the state of our health care system.

Even before the pandemic, the American health care system had a bad reputation. It is expensive and ineffective compared to countries of similar income. It is rife with disparities, failing miserably to grant equal access to health care across race, gender and income lines. It is messy and convoluted, proving almost impossible to understand for the average citizen. Rural hospital closures make it increasingly difficult for people outside of cities to receive desperately needed health care. Cuts in funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations show that this administration does not prioritize the health of American citizens. The list goes on.

With all of these problems, it is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic only served to expose the many flaws of the American health care system.

The Trump administration was slow to act in response to COVID-19, but this is not the only failure of our country. While government actions aided citizens with the cost of coronavirus testing, many patients remained vulnerable to out-of-pocket expenses associated with treatment. 68 percent of adults said these costs would affect their decision to seek care for symptoms of COVID-19, which means that a lack of access to affordable health care likely increased the spread of coronavirus in the United States. 

In addition, millions of citizens were left without health insurance during the pandemic due to unforeseen unemployment. The government should have frozen the health care status of citizens at the beginning of the health emergency, ensuring that new job losses would not affect health insurance. Finally, the pandemic exposed problems in the supply chain of our country’s medical supplies, as many places did not have sufficient ventilators, masks or hospital beds to care for everyone who needed treatment. 

The COVID-19 panic is now starting to subside, leaving our health care system in even worse shape than before. Health care professionals are burnt out, leading to worker shortages in the medical field. We are woefully underprepared for future health emergencies, especially if the current administration continues to defund health care. The inadequacies of American health care have been exposed and one thing is clear: change is needed. 

Whether we decide to follow in the footsteps of Canada’s single-payer health care system or attempt to rectify our own system, health care needs to be universal, affordable and accessible to all citizens.