When all of this is over, and the pandemic is just a terrible blur in our rearview mirror, we’d like to think that everything will go right back to normal.
Even if the medical toll is less dire than we fear, the economic toll is going to change everything.
In spite of the sunny predictions coming from the White House, the economy is unlikely to come roaring back “like a rocket” and “stronger than ever.”
Economists predict that the length of the pandemic will determine the depth of the economic crash. They say that a long-lasting pandemic will shrink the global economy and may lead to a global recession or even a depression.
And, folks, this talk is not all about the stock market.
It’s a far more serious and terrifying issue that doesn’t seem to be getting any attention at the moment.
In the past two weeks, approximately 10 million people have lost their jobs. TEN MILLION. That means no income, no money for food, no money for rent or the mortgage.
And it means no health insurance.
As everybody knows, the US is the only developed country on the entire planet where a person’s ability to have health insurance is nearly always tied to their job. If you have a full-time job, you have health insurance. If not, you don’t.
Sure, we are now theoretically covered by the ACA, or “Obamacare”, but that coverage is far from free. The average cost of the premiums ranges from about $350 a month to almost $900 a month. Not exactly affordable for a person without an income, is it?
So let’s imagine some 20 million or so workers who are suddenly in need of insurance. Maybe half of them will be able to swing the cost of an ACA policy. Maybe another quarter won’t, but will now qualify for Medicaid. A final quarter will just remain uninsured and hope for the best.
If you don’t think that scenario will impact you, then you aren’t thinking very clearly. In the first place, as the Republicans keep reminding us, “entitlements” like Medicaid are way too expensive. We need to cut them down, they say during every budget cycle.
How’s that going to work if we need to add 5 million people to the rolls? (And remember, that’s just a really conservative estimate).
And how will it impact our society to have added millions of uninsured people walking around our towns? Well, we can predict one thing: our Emergency Rooms are going to be dealing with even more preventable emergencies than usual. Extremely expensive emergencies, whose costs will be passed on to those of us who still have our jobs. You think your premiums are high now? Just wait. You’ve seen how many small and rural hospitals are closing due to bankruptcy? Just wait, my friends.
We know that people without insurance avoid getting medical care. That means that when they contract contagious illnesses, they continue to go about their lives without treatment. Say hello to more flu, more viral pneumonia, more hepatitis, and on and on.
We know that people without insurance avoid getting mental health care. The people who are at the most risk of anxiety and depression are left on their own to cope with joblessness, food insecurity, lack of medical care, relationship issues and unstable living conditions. Domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse and suicides are all connected to these types of socio-economic stressors.
So there you go. When this terrible disease finally fades away and we are allowed to pick up our lives again, far too many of us will be left without the ability to take care of their most basic health needs. And all of us will suffer because of that.
Gee, if only there was some type of solution that might give every single citizen guaranteed health care.