The Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably taken the blinders off, exposing just how decrepit and profit-driven the health care industry we have in this nation is. It needs to be overhauled.
Even before COVID, there were over 80 million Americans who were uninsured or underinsured. After Covid-19, over 40 million Americans are unemployed and a majority no longer receive health insurance from their employers.
Democratic Primary candidates who relentlessly and myopically bashed Medicare For All now see their talking points crumble before the nation as it faces its worst economic and health crisis in a century.
In the past few months alone, the U.S. has pumped out a record $4+ trillion primarily to protect corporations and industries from going bankrupt, while delivering a means-tested and meager one-time payment of $1200 to struggling American workers hoping to keep them afloat.
For those working in non-traditional employment environments, such as ‘gig’ and contract workers, the struggle to find affordable healthcare has become even more challenging.
How Does The ‘Gig Economy’ Fit In?
In the past decade, the number of Americans employed as gig economy workers increased by 15 percent to well over 50 million in total. Contract and gig work have proven to provide increased autonomy, #WFH, and countless other benefits. However, one benefit of employment at an established company these workers lack is – health insurance. As the global economy takes a long and deep breath during the pandemic, stagflation continues to make it difficult for contractual and gig workers to afford their own health insurance without a wholesale discount.
As of June 10th, California has issued a new gig work law that labels Uber and Lyft as employers of the countless drivers they work with. This law has the potential to set the precedent for other states to make legislative changes in order to protect gig workers. However, this process may be long and hard-fought, especially against large companies like Uber and Lyft. Furthermore, this system would still allow for the profiteering of the private health insurance industry without providing coverage for those workers outside of this small sphere.
With an unprecedented number of unemployed Americans off their employer-based health insurance, rising levels of uninsured Americans, a growing gig economy struggling to afford quality health care, and the uncertainty of future work in a post-pandemic world – Medicare For All appears to be the most viable solution to overcome this nationwide crisis.
A Universal Health Care Solution
Bernie Sanders championed the proposal of Medicare For All beginning in his 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination. Throughout the 2020 Democratic Primary health insurance all but consumed most debates as Democratic voters became more cognizant of this issue – even before the Coronavirus crisis. A majority of Democratic Primary voters (and even Republicans) were in favor of some form of a public option. Throughout the 2020 Primary, exit poll after exit poll confirmed consistent majority support for Medicare For All even in states where Bernie Sanders was defeated.
The major point other candidates cited in defense of their proposed private option solution was that voters are happy with their employer-based insurance and shouldn’t be forced to abandon that. Opponents of Medicare For All cite the cost of the proposal as near impossible to afford. The only unabating candidate in favor of Medicare For All and who “wrote the damn bill” is Senator Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, however, Senator Sanders had suspended his campaign in April to focus on his work in the Senate during the threat of Covid-19 and was pushed (once again) out of the running and threw his support behind Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee. With Sanders stepping aside and endorsing Biden, the potential for Medicare For All in the short-term seemed all but improbable.
However, the devastating social and financial impacts of the pandemic on daily American life has reinstated the conversation for universal health care. The Biden campaign is now working with Sanders’ team through task forces focused on addressing topics ranging from health care to the economy, criminal justice reform to climate change. The Coronavirus crisis has undeniably pushed Biden to take a step away from his “nothing will fundamentally change” position to an at least more progressively-minded approach.
It’s important to note that Biden has recently taken an aggressive stance against Medicare For All, even during the pandemic, citing that it won’t alleviate the pressures on the system.