It is election o’clock in America. With the greatest pandemic-related death toll of all countries and only a few weeks remaining to the presidential election that determines who will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years, fewer issues seem as essential to talk about as public health.
Who wins the election will get to largely decide what type of society Americans will live in for the years ahead, including the kind of healthcare the citizens of the world’s richest nation have access to.
In light of a pandemic that has already taken far too many lives with devastating economic repercussions, it is only appropriate to revive the fiery healthcare debate surrounding the signature policy program of Medicare for All proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders. After months, if not years of suspense, the healthcare ‘vision’ revealed by President Trump is at best a rebranding of the Affordable Care Act. Better known as Obamacare, despite all its virtues and as revolutionary as it was, the said act can no longer be a sufficient model for a developed nation.
Tens of millions of Americans remain uninsured or underinsured, many with employer-provided schemes that are blatantly inadequate. In addition to healthcare, the current mass unemployment is also a moment for the American nation to have a dialog about the total absence of protection for the working and middle class Americans, many of whom are furthermore left with medical bills so exuberant that their lives are shaken by them.
If, in fact, this pandemic has proven anything to the world at all, it’s the urgency and the virtue of having a universal health coverage that guarantees human dignity for all and protects public health. The current system is broken, corrupt, deficient, and potentially dangerous.
Moreover, the effects that the ongoing pandemic has had on the economy have shown that barely a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, injustice and inequality continue as defining genes of the current economic system. A system that supports the war of all against all, a state-of-nature unregulated free market economy in which the rich and the powerful freely devour the meek and the poor. For in the name of a supposed freedom, all is fair game.
Unabashed by the financial crises of today and yesterday, the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the nation boldly continue earning their billions, outsourcing jobs and damaging the environment while paying insignificant or no taxes.
But as the rich get richer, those Americans who have kept the country up and running throughout the pandemic see their livelihoods shrinking and challenges growing. The nurses who tend to our wounds, the farmers who feed us and the teachers who teach our children are the forgotten class of Americans who, in the wake of a deadly pandemic, have a harder time than ever to make ends meet.
Basic commodities such as universal healthcare, job security and a fairer market economy are not utopian fairy tales. In the European Union, a social and economic program similar to the one advocated by Senator Sanders has been long providing a desirable standard of living. Though none of them are nearly as rich and mighty as America and despite all their imperfections, there isn’t one single nation between the Atlantic and the Urals that doesn’t provide universal healthcare, childcare, affordable higher education and a more regulated and less brutal version of capitalism to its citizens.
Then, why is having a universal healthcare system that respects everyone’s dignity and protects public health so much to ask in the world’s richest country? Let’s hope that this deadly pandemic would be a moment for the American people to unite and put an end to the socioeconomic bellum omnium contra omnes – the war of all against all – promoted by an economic system that deprives the hardest working among us of things as basic as universal healthcare. The healthcare issue should not, must not, go away until addressed properly by the future administration.