COVID-19 is ravaging American healthcare. The fragmented private-insurance based system is crumbling under the weight of the pandemic—hospitals are underfunded, understaffed, and low on vital equipment. Infection rates and death tolls are skyrocketing across the country, and millions of Americans stand to lose their employer-based health insurance in the coming months.
Now is the time for a single-payer, universal healthcare system in the United States. Unless you ask Joe Biden.
The former Vice President still doesn’t believe a universal healthcare system would address the problems COVID-19 creates. America needs immediate fixes, Biden says, not an overhaul to the entire system.
Listen closer to Biden’s argument, though—he says that hospital financing “doesn’t come from a single payer system, it comes from the federal government stepping up and dealing with the concerns they have.” In a single payer system, the federal government is the single payer which would provide relief funding and equipment to hospitals when necessary. Greater government oversight would ensure hospitals were properly funded, staffed, and had access to the proper amount of life-saving equipment in the first place. Vaccine price gouging would be avoided, as would astronomical hospital bills and crippling medical debt.
But the biggest problem with Biden’s thinking isn’t his false notion that universal healthcare wouldn’t help. It’s that now, of all times, isn’t the best time to adopt it. That implies the United States should only enact life-saving measures on a crisis-by-crisis basis. Biden’s thinking involves no foresight into life beyond the pandemic, which is when he’d hypothetically be president. If the system isn’t overhauled to create more relief for hospitals and patients beyond the crisis, what’s to stop the next pandemic from overwhelming them in the same way? Biden himself has said COVID-19 testing and treatment should be free of charge. But if so, what’s the argument for stopping free testing and treatment for only one disease?
COVID-19 has only further exposed the American healthcare system as a fragmented mess. It’s no surprise to hear Biden co-opt health insurance industry rhetoric. But as arguments against single payer literally grow weaker by the day, the more tone deaf he sounds.