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How Medicare for All Would Have Improved U.S. Response to Pandemic

WASHINGTON - The for-profit health care system in the U.S. puts the country at a dangerous disadvantage in managing the COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, pandemic. With 87 million Americans uninsured or underinsured, and high financial burdens and coverage caveats for many people with private insurance, too many Americans who become infected may not be able to get the care they need or will face financial hardship when they seek care. And our health care system, including many hospitals, faces significant challenges handling such a pandemic.

Public Citizen is releasing a fact sheet today that highlights ways Medicare for All would make responding to COVID-19 easier, including:

  • The Current U.S. Health Care System Creates Profit – Not Wellness
    • Even once tests are widely available, high out-of-pocket costs mean those who test positive may not be able to afford necessary treatment. Avoiding needed treatment would mean that some Americans wait until they are sicker before going to a health care provider, which would further spread the disease or increase the expense of seeking care.
  • Fragmentation Means Slower and Less Coordinated Response
    • Countries with single-payer health care systems are better able to roll out testing, track the spread of the virus and intervene appropriately, as they aren’t forced to negotiate with numerous private insurers, coordinate multiple public insurance programs or figure out how to handle testing and treatment for the uninsured. By rolling out tests more quickly and ramping up to meet the crisis without requiring coordination of as many private corporations, countries with single-payer health care were able to react quickly and begin testing widely.

Americans, and some lawmakers, are quickly realizing that we need free testing and treatment for the coronavirus as well as a freely available vaccine. But for any sick person, the challenges they face affording care likely are the same if they have COVID-19, cancer or diabetes.

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By preventing prescription drug profiteering and guaranteeing access to needed medication, including newly created vaccines, while also disbursing funds in emergency situations, such as for purchasing ventilators or respirators, Medicare for All would ensure Americans receive the treatment they need during a crisis as well as for routine disease and illness.

Read the full fact sheet here.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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