Where You Live Has Never Been Such a Significant Determinant of Your Livelihood Until Coronavirus.
This wake-up call of the pandemic must serve as the jarring awake of America, or else we are done for.
The pain, depression, anxiety, and uncertainty of the fallout from Coronavirus will depend, in large part, on where you live.
An out-of-work waitress in Amsterdam can count on the government to cover 90 percent of her wages, while a Malaysian florist anxiously burns through her savings. While cafe owners in Brussels receive about $4,300 to make up for lost revenue. This written by Matt Apuzzo and Monika Pronczuk in the New York Times article, Covid-19’s Economic Pain Is Universal. But Relief? Depends on Where You Live.
In contrast with 40 million people losing their jobs and no relief in sight as things are playing out here in America, the Netherlands will pay up to 90 percent of wages for companies hit hard by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Washington here in the U.S. is divided over how to dole out recovery aid. Proposals have included one-time $1,200 payments.
The biggest chunk of money though, about $425 billion, is set aside for central bankers to use largely as they see fit.
What distinguishes the United States from other countries “is not the nature of the bailouts. It’s the underlying structure,” said Carol Graham, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies safety nets.
“People are more vulnerable from the get-go, even in normal times. You throw a shock like this at the system? It’s about as bad as it could get.”
And, not just regarding potential job loss, but American workers face additional anxiety over medical costs. Because the United States, unlike most of the developed world, does not guarantee health care.
For instance, data from The Commonwealth Fund has shown that in the United States, workforce and acute hospital bed capacity is lower than in many of the other countries examined. This suggests that U.S. health care resources will be stretched to a greater extent than those of many other countries.
So, because we don’t have the resources and supplies, we are less able to effectively treat people and handle the pandemic.
Responding effectively to COVID-19 also requires that patients are able to access and afford health care services.
A new poll by NBC News and the Commonwealth Fund found that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults say that their potential out-of-pocket costs would figure prominently in their decision to get care if they had coronavirus symptoms.
That is the sign of a dysfunctional country, to be sure. One where people have to weigh the financial cost when considering getting needed health care. Their body and health, versus the dollar amount. That should not even be a thing, people having to fear and worry over such a choice. This is the dilemma, heartbreakingly, of many who live in third world countries. Last time I checked, though, America wasn’t a third world country.
Health care should not be a luxury. It should not be something that, if a significant health problem arises or freak accident occurs, one’s savings account may be devastated. Instead, it should be a basic human right, available to all.
Lack of quality healthcare can result in a poor quality of life and lower life expectancy than countries with a stable and accessible healthcare system. So many other countries have this down- great and affordable healthcare (Finland, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, Austria, Canada, and Denmark, to name a few). Why don’t we?
Based on data from previous international surveys conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, we know that U.S. adults, including older adults, are generally more likely to forgo needed medical care — including doctor visits, tests, treatments, and medicines — than those in other countries.
A recent analysis in a series of Commonwealth Fund cross-national comparisons used health data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to assess U.S. health care system spending, outcomes, risk factors and prevention, utilization, and quality, relative to 10 other high-income countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
They found that the U.S. spends more on health care as a share of the economy — nearly twice as much as the average (OECD) country — yet has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 nations. And, the U.S. has the highest chronic disease burden and an obesity rate that is two times higher than the OECD average.
Federal legislation passed on March 18 requires health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing services. While this is a start though, it isn’t nearly good enough.
It’s become glaringly obvious with the pandemic that healthcare in this country is a huge problem, both in terms of cost, insurance-wise, and with America not literally having the necessary resources to shoulder the load of a pandemic. It’s a problem which can and does diminish the quality of many people’s lives. And that, if they lived elsewhere with a better healthcare system, that would not be the case.
Thus, anyone invested and interested in the survival of this country, and the well-being of its citizens will want to set about changing this now. Donald Trump, though, as well as the majority of his minions, have zero interest in this. Instead, they care about putting more money into the pockets of the rich. They also care about ultimate power. The rest? Not their concern. And we are seeing the results of this playing out right now, during the pandemic.
In the U.S., per-capita spending from private sources, for instance, voluntary spending on private health insurance premiums, including employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, is higher than in any of the countries compared. At $4,092 per capita, U.S. private spending is more than five times higher than Canada, the second-highest spender.
Again, our citizens pay more than five times the amount for medical care, as the second-highest spender with regard to other countries.
In Sweden and Norway, private spending made up less than $100 per capita. As a share of total spending, private spending is much larger in the U.S. (40%) than in any other country (0.3%–15%).
The average U.S. resident paid $1,122 out-of-pocket for health care, which includes expenses like copayments for doctor’s visits and prescription drugs or health insurance deductibles.
Only the Swiss pay more.
Residents of France and New Zealand pay less than half of what Americans spend.
And yet, despite that we spend nearly the most of any country on our own medical care, American’s have the highest rate of chronic disease, the highest rate of obesity, they visit doctors the least frequently, have the highest rates of avoidable deaths, as well as the highest suicide rates of all these countries.
Something is very wrong with this picture.
There are other ways in which varying countries are stepping up to the plate to help their citizens too.
While countries like Denmark have famously robust safety nets, even the Conservative government in Britain has, after years of austerity, adopted a similar approach. “For the first time in our history, the government is going to step in and pay people’s wages,” the British chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said last week. The plan, which is still being developed, will pay up to about $2,900 a month to workers who have lost hours but are not laid off.
The center-right government in Germany will spend more than $40 billion to help small businesses cover basic needs to stay afloat during the crisis. That is in addition to a program aimed at larger companies, called “kurzarbeit,” or “short-time working,” that covers lost wages for employees who are sent home, to avoid laying them off.
South Korea’s employee-retention program covers 70 percent of wages or more, and the government recently loosened the rules to make more businesses eligible. But part-time workers, contractors and the self-employed receive fewer protections. Some may be eligible for one-time cash payments.
Elias Calcoen and his partner opened a cafe in Brussels eight months ago. It has been closed for more than a week, but the city’s government is offering small businesses immediate $4,300 payments, plus $1,300 a month in federal aid for displaced self-employed workers.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced measures worth €200 billion ($219 billion) to help companies and protect workers and other vulnerable groups affected by the escalating coronavirus.
The Spanish government plans to mobilize €117 billion for the package, with private companies providing the rest. Some €600 million will be pumped into basic social services.
Portugal, which declared a 15-day state of emergency starting on March 18, has unveiled a €9.2 billion ($10 billion) aid stimulus package, worth more than 4% of the country’s GDP. The package includes state-backed credit worth €3 billion to help companies in sectors like tourism, hospitality, textiles, wood, micro, and small enterprises. Some €5 billion of the fiscal stimulus is set aside to enable flexible tax and social security payment.
France has pledged a €45 billion ($50 billion) aid package for small businesses in addition to tens of billions already promised for French workers forced to stop working because of shop and restaurant closures and strict new quarantine measures.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau unveiled an aid stimulus package worth $82 billion Canadian (US $56.4 billion; €51.4 billion). The package will be used to support businesses and provide temporary tax relief. The package is worth 3% of Canada’s GDP. The stimulus package will also support child benefit payments and provide emergency care to workers who don’t have access to paid sick leave.
Trudeau also announced that Canada would restrict all non-essential travel from the US. He assured that supply chains would not be affected by the move.
“No matter who you are or what you do, right now you should be focused on your health — and not about whether you will lose your job or run out of money for things like groceries or medicine. So today, we announced our plan that will help you and your family,” said Trudeau.
That is the way a government acts that is good and one who fosters the well-being of its citizens. One who actually cares about people. One who has the backs of its citizens in a time of crisis.
Instead, of people exercising their basic constitutional rights by protesting, Trump urges police to shoot them and says he is going to have military flood the streets and declare a state of martial law.
America has made all sorts of grandiose promises itself with regard to help during Coronavirus. Aside from one round of paltry checks which might be enough dough to cover someone for a week or two, there has not been much financial assistance extended.
For one billion dollars, General Motors and VenTec Life Systems would have produced tens of thousands of ventilators (as many as 80,000) for those in need. Donald Trump’s response to this in an interview with Sean Hannity: “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said, a reference to New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appealed for federal help in obtaining them. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
From the article Coronavirus Could End American Exceptionalism in The Atlantic, Uri Friedman writes: the Obama administration had developed a playbook for pandemic response that drew in part on lessons from other countries’ experiences, but the Trump administration disregarded it. When China began confining millions of people to their homes in January, the U.S. government should have gotten the message that the Chinese were grappling with a grave threat to the wider world, the Yale sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis told me in March. “We lost six weeks” in the United States to prepare — “to build ventilators, get protective equipment, organize our ICUs, get tests ready, prepare the public for what was going to happen so that our economy didn’t tank as badly. None of this was done adequately by our leaders.”
By one estimate, from the epidemiologists Britta L. Jewell and Nicholas P. Jewell, if social-distancing policies had been implemented just two weeks earlier in March, 90 percent of the cumulative coronavirus deaths in the United States during the first wave of the pandemic might have been prevented.
Rather than using diagnostic tests that the World Health Organization had distributed to other countries early in the global outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insisted on developing its own, only to botch the rollout of those tests. Nations such as South Korea and Taiwan have raced ahead of the U.S. in their efforts to contain the outbreak.
Even now, as a number of countries have swum feverishly toward safer ground, the United States has spent the past couple of months of near-nationwide lockdown merely treading water. It has yet to roll out robust testing across the country, despite Donald Trump’s assertions since March that anybody who wants a test can get one. It has also failed to develop proper contact-tracing systems, as other nations have, and to meaningfully flatten the curve outside New York.
So, now what, America? We claim to be a rich country. We have claimed to be a great one too. At the moment, though, the world is watching us with wide eyes, aghast and astonished at our stupidity, our cruelty to one another. They are witnessing our country burning to the ground in real-time.
We have 150 days between now and the next election to act. To change it. To have one chance at saving America.
If Trump gets elected again, this country is done for. And if he doesn’t? If somehow, we manage to show the world we are not as far gone as we seem?
Well, that’s a huge victory and a step in the right direction. But as the devastation of COVID-19 has shown us, we have significant, costly, intense work to do if we can ever hope to live in a country (and make this a place) where people do not merely scrape by in anxiety and fear, but instead, they are able to live well and even flourish.