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Looming Coronavirus Threat in US Bolsters Case for Medicare for All and Universal Paid Sick Leave

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/27/looming-coronavirus-threat-us-bolsters-case-medicare-all-and-universal-paid-sick


The coronavirus will be like the flu except it may kill (way ballpark) 1 million Americans within 12 months, mainly old people who aren’t that healthy. That’s still not what anybody wants.

We need paid sick leave so that people don’t sneeze all over a restaurant’s food. Nor should they bring the thing to their job at the nursing home.

Medicare for all will be more important for the coronavirus than for the flu because the coronavirus sets in, really deep, if not caught early.


It is amusing, albeit grimly so, to contemplate how woefully ill-suited the US system is to combat an airborne virus. It really may be time for a collective Darwin Award of some sort.

The standard response to such things, since there is no vaccine, is quarantine. To quarantine, one must know who is infected and who is not. In anything like a normal system, people would announce that they might be infected, the better to receive care, so people around the planet mostly see identification of cases as a problem only in the very early going and related to incubation periods.

However, because the sick are actively punished in the United States, the response will predictably be quite different. Imagine this. One has symptoms that might relate to a cold or flu. One has the option of going to a doctor, whether one is insured or not, in part because one can go into an ER and skip on the bill wholly or partly. But there are obstacles:

  • Quarantine will likely mean loss of job
  • Loss of job may mean loss of a purchased house or a rental
  • Absence from school will be punished without a doctor’s note. A doctor’s note, if not forged, means going to a doctor. Going to a doctor means taking a chance on being diagnosed. This would, in turn, mean that the entire family and any other residents of the household would be exposed. See above risks.

At the same time, the promise of treatment is unlikely. The insurance company, if any has the case, is likely to not pay–and the more likely the fewer legal and financial resources the family might have. Government may pay after the fact, but may not, and this is already becoming less likely. In all events, it is unreliable and depends on being able and willing to navigate government bureaucracy for someone else’s money.

Moreover, doctors are losing credibility very quickly because they regularly overprescribe and prescribe for profit and prescribe to cover themselves legally rather than attempting to provide optimal care. The fault here is not always that of the doctor; the relevant publications that establish “state of the art” care are at least as bad.

So the"rational, self-interested" thing to do, for at least the percentage of the US population that is living paycheck to paycheck, is to avoid detection.

Forbes has that at 78% of the population. This is one reason, just one but a fairly representative one, of why greater inequality in income lowers quality of life and life expectancy even for the wealthy.

How is your childcare worker doing? Who washes the dishes in your kitchen? In the local restaurant? Where you get your coffee?

This is likely not a virulent enough infection to see through a lot of social change. But that just means that another is coming.


It might be “amusing” to detached aliens waiting for us to extirpate ourselves (but I know what you mean). Your comment speaks to how non-serious, how incredibly unprepared we are at every level. At least Wall Street is starting to grok how heart-attack serious this thing is:

Dow down 1200 today, the biggest drop ever, into the 25000’s. From here, financial markets get more, not less volatile, because of so many sophisticated instruments to obscure layers of leverage. Below 25000, the rubber bands and twist-ties holding the whole thing together start to pull apart, and the loud pops of financial bubbles bursting can be heard.


They’re unseen hands because they’re invisible, don’t you know? I think it was old Adam Smith who gifted the grifters with invisible hands long ago. Handy for legerdemaniacal purposes.


Too little too late. We are now seeing that happens when there is no efficient government entity to handle something like a pandemic.
Just imagine if this had been a real nasty pathogen, one that is easily transmitted with a goddamn awful mortality rate.
When America goes down for the count it will be a site to see. Quarantine zones, summary executions, roving bands of heavily armed lunatics killing everyone that coughs. Death camps, buckets of blood, dogs and cats living together.
When we go down it will be in an unprecedented blaze of glory. We will take everyone within arms length down with us, because that’s the kind of people we are. Imagine Cormac McCarthys “the road”


Anand Giridharadas has the best argument for Medicare-For-All.


Americans haven’t earned good government or universal health care, and across the board don’t deserve either. In fact, Americans already have far far more than they deserve or have earned. The rest of the western world, and many other countries as well, already have those rights assured and more, and only because they are secular, educated, progressive, and confident that they deserve human rights, and are worthy of them. The bible thumpers, a dominant force in American politics who’s only seeming intent is to force an apocalypse so they can get their rapture sooner rather than later, have insured the destruction of America, of representative government, of social and economic justice, and of human decency in general. If more Americans are impacted by disease outbreaks due to their socio-economic retardation, it is only proof that Darwin was right.


" EMTALA requires Medicare-participating hospitals with emergency departments to screen and treat the emergency medical conditions of patients in a non-discriminatory manner to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay, insurance status, national origin, race, creed or color."

Additionally, many hospitals have plans for indigent care not covered by insurance. However, waiting for 7 hours or more in an emergency room could be fairly hazardous.

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Despite #45 Combover Caligula’s lies, incompetent ramblings that the virus will just disappear, and complete disregard of the public interest while railing about the stock market drop’s impact on his electability at the coronavirus press conference last night; Dr. Anthony Fauci’s contradicted #45’s lie of an imminent vaccine: there is NO vaccine and one cannot be developed and readied for distribution for at least 12 to 18 months. so there’s nothing but IV fluids and quarantine that hospitals can do and therefore insurance companies would be required to pay for – until the respiratory infection is so advanced that the patient needs to be intubated to have even a chance of saving their life. This is a very invasive procedure that exposes healthcare workers to bodily fluids at a much higher risk rate.

Apparently the #45 Administration just put a gag order on Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads NIH and is a legend in the Healthcare Community because of his work on AIDS and other infectious diseases.


Additionally, Medicare4All is not a fairy land that is going to fix all this, go look at a few long-term care facilities and look at their infection control rating.

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Thank God I am on Medicare.

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Hi Aleph_Null:

Actually making armies sick is a good way for any opposition to win a war. There was an ancient history story re" mad honey," which really does come from bees but maybe the wrong plant—and it does indeed make people mad and ready to die or go psycho--------I suppose any nation would implode with enough of anything like mad honey,: (
And, to not have medicare for all really does show how weak, even the most powerful nation can be. : (

Yeah, but both the Canadian health services and the U.K. have better infection control measures than our health system.


Sure. Someone still is apt to lose a job. It’s not that the hospitals or the personnel are necessarily bad or inhumane; it is that the system is busted straight out because it is designed to extract dollars rather than to provide care.

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I agree, there are some very good things about our healthcare but as you say it is designed for profit. People never see the machinery that is very strategic in planning these things.


Wait until Americans come to the realization that 1000’s of shipping containers coming from China are landing and offloading tons of goods being shipped to Walmarts and many other retail outlets all over this country every single day.

This is one of many reasons for the selloff on Wall Street.


Well, Lamonte, I’ll start with your numbers. 20-30 million cases of the coronavirus and a 2% death rate would equal 500,000 American deaths in a year. That’s still not good.

You have made two assumptions in your post: first, that China has a so-so healthcare system, and by implication, second, that the USA has a superb healthcare system by comparison.

I’m going to do a Bernie Sanders here and look rather dispassionately at the Chinese healthcare system. They may not do many heart transplants. Worse, their autocratic leadership was a major cause of the coronavirus spreading all over China, first through enforced secrecy, second through an imposed lockdown with lots of holes that in practice encouraged carriers to evacuate Wuhan by the millions.

On the other hand, China delivers a basic level of medical care to all of its citizens. Nobody dies while sleeping under a bridge. If anyone is sick, they live or die in a hospital bed. So, the coronavirus might possibly have a slightly higher death rate in another country.

The U.S. health care system covers all sorts of operations if you have good insurance, but a high percentage of people won’t afford to take a fever to the emergency room. Many people are still on the Republican Don’t Get Sick plan. Many seniors don’t want to have to pay their $135 Medicare Plan B deductible for any particular year. Millions of people want to stay under the radar. So let’s say it, we’re going to see a bunch of dead people in the U.S. I don’t see an argument that China’s 2% death rate is going to higher than the death rate in the U.S.

I throw out the 1,000,000 American dead as an order of magnitude estimate. If I’m off by a factor of 2 in either direction, it’s still a rough ballpark guess.


You must accept this on faith: invisible hands that are allied with big money are doing good in the world.

If the previous statement makes you feel a bit sick, that’s not the coronavirus. Rich people and strongmen have been claiming divine authority going back at least to Pharaoh, who was a descendant of the sun god. Under the Roman Catholic church they toned it down just a bit to the Divine Right of Kings. Now we have some magic hands that you can’t see, and guess who owns them?


From Wikipedia:

" Healthcare in China consists of both public and private medical institutions and insurance programs. About 95% of the population has at least basic health insurance coverage. Despite this, public health insurance generally only covers about half of medical costs, with the proportion lower for serious or chronic illnesses. Under the “Healthy China 2020” initiative, China is currently undertaking an effort to cut healthcare costs, and the government requires that insurance will cover 70% of costs by the end of 2018 The Chinese government is working on providing affordable basic healthcare to all residents by 2020. China has also become a major market for health-related multinational companies. Companies such as AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Merek entered the Chinese market and have experienced explosive growth. China has also become a growing hub for health care research and development. China’s 2050 healthcare spending can reach up to what Germany’s current GDP is, which is as much as $5 trillion.

Organ transplantation in China has taken place since the 1960s, and is one of the largest organ transplant programs in the world, peaking at over 13,000 liver and kidney transplants a year in 2004. China is also involved in innovative transplant surgery such as face transplantation including bone.