Almost 600,000 people have died from the Coronavirus. Millions have been ruined financially. Thousands are dying everyday. Congress has passed several relief bills. There are some good things happening. But it is not adequate considering the scale of the emergency. And a new study even estimates that count might be too low, and the actual Covid death count could be over 900,000. (NPR, 5-6-21)
However much the true count is, the reality is that this is a health emergency. And in a health emergency, people need health care.
Every modern nation in the world has universal health care, with one solitary exception—the United States. Even in 1883, Germany had set up a compulsory sickness insurance program for workers. Most European countries have had some sort of health coverage for as long as the United States has been trying to get it.
How many Americans have to die from the Coronavirus before health care is taken seriously in this country? 2 million? 4 million? What is the figure?
Some action is being taken. But not enough.
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the Covid-19 relief bill which included funding for vaccine distribution, $1400 in cash payments to millions of Americans, extended unemployment benefits, support for caregiving, nutrition programs, health care funding, nursing home funding and funding for pensions. However, the bill doesn't provide health care for all, medicare is still being underfunded, and there is no mandated paid sick leave.
While there are certainly some steps forward in this bill, there is clearly much more work that needs to be done in terms of saving lives. What is in the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 Relief Bill? (AARP, 3-11-21).
We don't claim that this a complete agenda for President Joe Biden on what he can do about this emergency, but we wanted to pick out some essential priorities that need to be done as soon as possible.
According to a new study, nearly 50 million Americans cannot afford needed health care (Common Dreams, 3-31-21). This is unacceptable.
Medicare for all should be introduced now and universal health care for all should be permanent. There should be 100% coverage for 100% of the people. We'll leave it up to Biden's team to figure out the exact details of how to make this happen.
Time to Pass An Emergency Health Care Bill to Guarantee Universal Coverage For All
In 2020, Jayapal introduced the "Bicameral Emergency Health Care Guarantee Act" on May 15th, 2020. This did not end up passing. However, we understand this will be reintroduced and are supporters of this act.
The purpose of this act was to ensure that families could afford to seek treatment by using Medicare's existing, efficient and direct payment structure. Under the Bicameral Emergency Health Care Guarantee Act, the federal government would cover all costs of treatment for uninsured Americans as well as all out-of-pocket costs for those with private or public insurance throughout the duration of the pandemic. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Since this did not pass, it's time to introduce and pass another bill like it. As we mentioned above, America is going through a state of emergency. The relief bills are helpful but they are not enough. One of the reasons why things in this country are so bad is because this country doesn't have universal health care.
It's time for a 100 for 100 plan for health care. 100 percent coverage for 100 percent of the people.
We're not saying this is the only solution. But universal health care should be introduced until the emergency passes.
Medicare For All Bills (Earth Future Action)
Restore Social Security and Medicare Operating Budget Back to 2010 Levels
In the last ten years, we've seen the worst cuts ever to the operating budget for running vital social security programs. This is a matter of life and death. One hour wait times are not acceptable on the phone and many offices have been closed. Phone banks should be funded so that waiting times would be 10 minutes at most.
Because of drastic cuts over the years, thousands of people die waiting for their social security benefits. In 2017, 10,000 people died waiting for social security benefits (The Washington Post). And by 2018, 19,000 died waiting for social security disability benefits in a period of 2 years (Globenewswire).
In a crisis, people don't have time to wait. Spending must go back to 2010 levels.
The Need for Paid Sick Leave
America cannot fight the Coronavirus without paid sick leave. The United States is the only rich country that fails to provide any nationally-mandated paid sick leave. Of United Nation member countries, 181 provide paid sick leave in some form while 11 do not, including the U.S. And the countries hit the hardest by the global pandemic were the ones that didn't offer paid sick leave from the first day of illness.
Paid sick leave provides an economic safety net while also ensuring that people with symptoms of disease do not spread disease (including a disease like the Coronavirus). Paid sick leave will also increase peoples' willingness to get tested. Because many people are not going to want to risk testing positive if that means going 2 weeks without pay.
Pandemics are not a problem that will go away. So America needs to be prepared for both the current Coronavirus pandemic, and whatever pandemic may hit in the future, because we cannot afford to keep shutting down the economy.
The federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remains in effect through March 31, 2021 (National Low Income Housing Coalition). The temporary moratoriun has helped house millions of Americans who otherwise would have been evicted during the pandemic. And the most recent Covid Relief bill, signed into law on March 11th, 2021, offers $30 billion in rental assistance and other relief for the homeless. There is also $10 billion for mortgage assistance.
But what happens when the moratorium ends? From the numbers we have, an estimated 30-40 million people are at risk of losing their homes (Aspen Institute). And as city and state governments race to distribute rental assistance funds, they are discovering that data about evictions is so poor that we don’t know who is losing their homes where, and how to focus aid and outreach. (New York Times). The federal government collects data on evictions from public housing authorities. But it has little to no eviction information on the private rental market, where the vast majority of American renters live.
So extending the moratorium is a temporary solution, but in the longterm, the government needs to device a better way to track homelessness in the United States and address housing insecurity. More in funding could also be required to help the 30-40 million expected to lose their homes.
Rep. Ilhan Omar Introduces Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act (Ilhan Omar Official Website) Read the Bill Here PDF
Time for a Massive Increase in Coronavirus Testing
People have put forth wearing masks and social distancing as a solution to the Coronavirus crisis. Masks and social distancing are certainly a start, but the most effective solution is universal testing for all. This is what the experts have been saying and this is what has worked very well in countries like South Korea.
President Joe Biden, called for a sevenfold increase in Coronavirus testing, and we agree. (The Hill)
Right now, the problem with testing in general is that America only has around 25 million Coronavirus testing kits a month. Some experts say way more is needed in order to safely re-open the economy. And 25 million is roughly the same number we had back in July.
It is time for a massive increase in Coronavirus testing. We cannot deal with the threat of the virus if we cannot find the virus. And the best way to find out who has the virus is to dramatically increase testing. There also needs to be repeated testing, because an individual can be fine one month and sick the next.
Provide Aid to Nursing Homes and Hospitals
Nursing homes and hospitals have been hard hit by the pandemic. Nursing homes are projected to lose $94 billion over 2020 and 2021. Nursing homes and hospitals are taking care of those who are the most vulnerable in this crisis.
And yet nursing homes and hospitals have been left out of the most recent stimulus bill which was passed at the end of February 2021. Now they are trying to convince the Senate to give them an additional infusion of funding in its version of its $2 trillion relief bill.
Last year, Congress poured $178 billion into the Provider Relief Fund to help hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers pay for coronavirus-related expenses. The pandemic continues to be a source of financial drain for hospitals.
Total hospital revenue in 2021 could be between $53 billion and $122 billion lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to a study released last week by the American Hospital Association, which is seeking to build a case for why its members needs more federal aid.
The association is asking Congress to funnel another $35 billion to the Provider Relief Fund to replace some of that revenue reduction.
See more information here: CNN Politics (3-2-21)
Broadband For All
During a national pandemic where people need to socially distance and isolate for their own safety, internet connectivity has become more important than ever. It is absolutely vital that the government develops some kind of plan to provide internet for all, because right now telework is not an option for everyone. There are still several areas in the country that have no access to the internet. Poor and rural areas have been left out. And Coronavirus deaths are much higher among the poor.
We should set a national goal of at least 100 MB per second for 100% of all Americans. We'll leave the details to the experts.
And the government should pay for those who can't afford it.
The adoption of a National Broadband plan won't happen by accident. We need strong leadership and funding from the government to make this happen. There needs to be subsidies for the poor and a broadening of the range of internet access. The President should set up a National Broadband council of the top companies in the industry, along with experts and citizen groups that can offer the best ideas. A "Broadband Summit" should be held at the White House to get the views of all relevant parties, particularly the cable TV and cell phone companies. Decisions need to be made about the means to reach all communities.
Below is a bill to improve internet access that should be considered.
House, Senate Democrats unveil $94 billion bill to improve Internet access (The Washington Post, 3-11-21) Read Bill Here