Report: Medicare for All Would Have Prevented Hundreds of Thousands of Covid Deaths

The U.S. needs to be prepared for the next pandemic, and it can’t be under the current for-profit system, says Eagan Kemp, author of the Public Citizen report. 

Medicare for All Rally, Los Angeles, February 2017. (Molly Adams/Flickr)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

The United States’ fragmented for-profit healthcare system hampered the nation’s coronavirus response “at every turn,” resulting in millions of Covid-19 infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths that likely would have been prevented under a Medicare for All system, finds consumer advocacy group Public Citizen in a study released Tuesday.

Titled Unprepared for Covid-19: How the Pandemic Makes the Case for Medicare for All, the white paper builds off a recent analysis showing that around 40 percent  of U.S. Covid-19 infections and 33 percent of virus deaths are associated with uninsurance, which was high before the pandemic and soared last year as mass layoffs threw millions off their employer-provided coverage. The growing uninsured rate has hit frontline workers particularly hard.

“The reality is that our for-profit healthcare system put the U.S. at a dangerous disadvantage and hindered rapid response,” Public Citizen’s new report reads. “It has also meant millions of Americans have contracted Covid-19 unnecessarily and hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been prevented.”

“Under Medicare for All, everyone would have consistent coverage regardless of their employment status or employer,” the report continues. “And because Americans would have their choice of providers, instead of facing the narrow networks their employers choose for them, they would face fewer challenges getting care, especially during a pandemic where some hospitals and providers are overwhelmed by demand.”

Finally Addressing Health Disparities

If the U.S. had in place a single-payer system that provided everyone in the country with comprehensive healthcare for free at the point of service — as proposed by supporters of Medicare for All — “the U.S. would finally be able to ensure sufficient funding for public health, including future pandemics,” and “the nation could finally begin addressing massive health disparities in a comprehensive way,” the paper argues.

“As the pandemic has shown, everyone depends on the healthcare system throughout their lives,” the paper adds. “Whether we face a public health emergency like a global pandemic or simply need to meet routine medical needs, Medicare for All would ensure necessary treatments are available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.”

Confirmed cases of COVID-19, coded by percentage of population confirmed to be infected as of March 15, 2021, based on data released by Johns Hopkins University and US Census. (Wikimedia Commons)


Eagan Kemp, Public Citizen’s healthcare policy advocate and the author of the report, said in a statement that the “pandemic has shown how wide the gaps in our healthcare system remain and how easy it is for families to fall through them.”

“We need to be prepared for the next pandemic, and we can’t be under the current for-profit system. The time has come for a healthcare system that guarantees healthcare for everyone in the U.S.,” Kemp said. “The time has come for Medicare for All.”

Medicare for All Act of 2021

Public Citizen’s white paper came a day before Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) are set to introduce the Medicare for All Act of 2021, which is expected to broadly resemble single-payer legislation that the Washington Democrat sponsored in 2019.

That bill, as Common Dreams reported at the time, proposed a two-year transition to a Medicare for All system that would provide dental, vision, reproductive health, mental health, long-term care, and other services with no out-of-pocket costs attached.

“The state of our healthcare system is absolutely atrocious,” Jayapal told reporters on the eve of the bill’s release just over two years ago. “How is it possible that the United States, the richest country in the world, is the only major country that does not guarantee healthcare to our residents?”

The case for Medicare for All, as Public Citizen argues in its new report, has only grown stronger since 2019, with the coronavirus pandemic further exposing the private system’s fundamental and deadly flaws as well as the rapacity of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

“The Covid-19 pandemic showed just how greedy private insurers are, as they were reporting record profits because they were paying out far less in claims due to millions of Americans delaying care,” Kemp writes. “This disparity highlights just how little value insurers are bringing to the healthcare system despite how much they cost consumers and the healthcare system in general.”

While Congress recently approved a significant expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies with the goal of helping more people afford insurance in the marketplace, Kemp contends that “the scope of the reforms are limited and so Americans will continue to struggle without a comprehensive solution like Medicare for All.”

“Under Medicare for All,” Kemp concludes, “our healthcare system would focus on health and wellbeing instead of generating profit and revenue for wealthy insurers.”

This article is from Common Dreams.

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7 comments for “Report: Medicare for All Would Have Prevented Hundreds of Thousands of Covid Deaths

  1. Neutral Observer
    March 18, 2021 at 10:01

    The problem with health care in the U.S. is not the cost of health insurance, it’s the cost of health care services. The per capita cost of health care in the U.S. in $11,000. The annual per capita cost in Germany is $6,000 with universal access.

    Medicare 4 All with is simply moving the “who pays” food around the plate with little reduction in the actual cost of health care services. Under an M4A regime health care costs will still eventually bankrupt the U.S.

    For real reform, the Big Health Care cartels (Big Doctor, Big Hospital, Big Pharma, Big Insurance) have to be lined up for haircuts. But nobody in Washington has the guts to do it.

  2. James Simpson
    March 18, 2021 at 04:01

    The USA could be described as a death cult. If a non-ruling class resident of the country hasn’t the ability to pay for something, they go into extortionate debt or do without it, even if that includes vital health care. There is little sympathy in the media or in the political class for people who are unable to pay their own way. This is not a new problem for society. Why else do the major religions forbid the lending out of money at interest? Why did Jesus, supposedly, say that the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil? Money is more important in the USA than even life itself.

  3. bobLich
    March 17, 2021 at 11:44

    Medicare for all will never happen as long as the ruling class controls the most important politician scums. Maybe a younger generation could get there but my guess is the big war machine will continue to get all the money until we have economic collapse or a nuclear war. The first president I remember is Dwight Eisenhower and I have watched the whole unfettered capitalist sickness grow out of control. It’s over until further notice.

    War machine propaganda for the young:

    This is how it works:
    82% of Koch Candidates Elected to Office

  4. jdd
    March 17, 2021 at 11:14

    There is more to fix in the US healthcare system, than just this aspect. We have closing down hospitals instead of building new ones, and haven’t the capacity to deal with emergencies, as was exposed during the past year, Nonetheless, it is a start and this issue should have been put on the table long ago, not as a mandate as Sanders and Warren insisted, but as a public option. Apparently however, Sanders, et. al., have found a new obsession, not with stopping regime change wars, but with raising the minimum wage. Could the Democrats’ silence on this be because Biden opposes MfA and continues to support the insurance scam known as “Obamacare?’ Now, having control of both houses and the presidency, and with no other proposals under debate, it is time to put up or shut up.

  5. Piotr Berman
    March 17, 2021 at 10:41

    The pandemic was not better in EU countries with one-payer systems, so these system CAN make things better but do not have to. Perhaps one aspect is that these countries are affected, like USA, with the quick rise in healthcare costs, and prone to savings of similar kind, closing “unnecessary hospitals” etc. Reopening the closed hospitals was a huge issue, who should pay, how much, compare to China building a temporary mega-hospital in Wuhan in two weeks, no going back and forth if Wuhan city should pay, or Hubei province or the central government.

    And I guess the same happened with the quarantine of the international travelers in the first weeks and months of the pandemic. Handling the international travel and early cases made a difference between Far East countries with a variety of social systems like Japan and Vietnam, and USA and EU. Properly done, it is finding place for hundreds of thousands, with properly disinfected transport, services like supplies and food, and so on. Since the travel was interrupted, probably there was enough of hotels that could be mobilized, but who can order it, who should pay, there is no system to organize it. Hence 40 thousands of travelers from China with no clear procedure for them.

    Squabbling about costs was most amazing. It is easier to decide on trillions for the quantitative easing or “federal relief program” and on billions that were necessary at the early stage of the pandemic.

    • jdd
      March 17, 2021 at 12:15

      I agree.

    • James Simpson
      March 18, 2021 at 04:05

      As is becoming abundantly clear here in the UK where Covid-19 deaths are the worst in the world, neoliberal policies of small government, supported by the Tories and now the Labour opposition leadership, are lethal and utterly unable to cope with the realities of running a society for the good of its members. Yet we keep electing them. The Conservative party is the most successful political party in history. Even mildly socialist Labour parties always fail to get elected. Why?

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