If there’s a lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that Americans are left uniquely unprepared for such a crisis because our federal and state governments do a lousy job protecting us.
Two things — paid sick leave and affordable health care — would go a long way in helping Americans guard against a crisis such as this, and others to come.
The United States requires neither.
To help slow the spread of the coronavirus, sick workers are encouraged to stay home.
But that’s an impossible request for 25% of Americans whose jobs don’t provide paid sick leave.
In their minds, there’s little debate as to whether they report to work sick, exposing others, or go without a paycheck.
That’s not an option they can entertain, and in many cases would put their jobs in jeopardy.
THIS WEEK marks the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Were it fulfilled to its intent, every American would have health insurance. Instead, almost 30 million Americans still lack it in part because some states, including Kansas, have neglected to extend its umbrella to cover the poor. For seven years running, Kansas legislators have refused to expand Medicaid, leaving 130,000 of its most needy without coverage.
Many Americans forego insurance simply because it’s too expensive, thanks to insurance companies being able to shift more and more of the ever-rising cost of healthcare onto individuals.
Runaway medical expenses account for 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. today.
Among the world’s industrialized countries, the United States is one of the few to not mandate paid sick leave or universal health care.
During this pandemic our leaders disengenuously shout, “We’re all in this together,” when they know the consequenes of falling ill are so different between those who have a secure job and adequate healthcare and those who do not.
How did we get here?
Time and again, lawmakers have caved to the demands of large corporations who put their own profits as paramount to the welfare of their employees.
Affordable health care will never see the light of day as long as the insurance and pharmaceutical industries call the shots.
The same goes for paid sick leave as long as the interests of stockholders are more important than employees.
NEW YORK CITY is now on track to be the new epicenter of this global pandemic, with its number of cases doubling every three days.
On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the warning, “Where we are today, you will be in four weeks or five weeks or six weeks. We are your future.”
Rather than take stock in the governor’s notice that the worst is yet to come, President Donald Trump announced he wants to begin loosening health restrictions so the country is “raring to go by Easter,” less than three weeks away.
WE UNDERSTAND the president’s sense of urgency to get the country’s economic engine back in gear.
But not at the cost of unnecessary deaths.
We ask our leaders not to put profits before life. Not again.
Even here in Allen County where to date no cases have been reported, we need to be vigilant about hygiene and about who we come in contact with.
If you must travel to a “hot spot,” — Kansas City, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco — have the courtesy to self-isolate for two weeks before getting out among others.
Let’s get out of the woods — together.
— Susan Lynn