Nearly two hundred thousand patients and three thousand dead вЂ” the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, contrary to Donald Trump's admonitions, went out of control. The authorities cannot cope with the spread of infection, and the medical system is not adapted to treat hundreds of thousands of patients. Why was the most developed country in the world not ready to withstand the virus?
Everything's under control
Americans have always been at the forefront of the fight against global epidemics. The outbreaks of SARS, Zika and Ebola, if affecting the United States, did not threaten national security.
America, in the words of former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is surrounded by вЂњfriendly neighbors and fishвЂќ вЂ” partners Canada and Mexico and the two oceans. The United States has not been a battleground for both real enemies and viruses for decades, and now that the threat comes from within, the country simply does not know what to do.
The opinion of President Donald Trump has changed rapidly вЂ” just as the epidemic has spread. From January 22, when the first patient was registered, and until mid-March, while there were fewer than a hundred dead, Trump assured: everything is under control, the risk of infection is low, the virus will recede as soon as it becomes warmer.
And two weeks ago, he said: вЂњThis is a pandemic. I knew that it was a pandemic, long before that, you just had to look at other countries. вЂќ
Today, the United States came out on top in the number of infected in the world: 163.5 thousand. The victims вЂ” more than three thousand. New York turned into the main focus of the epidemic, and the authorities lost control over the situation in a matter of days.
Cost of delay
According to some American experts, Washington lost six weeks. It was possible to prepare tests, masks, protective suits for doctors, stock up on mechanical ventilation devices. This is not done.
Even now, authorities do not recognize the criticality of the shortage of medical equipment. When the governor of the hot spot вЂ” the state of New York вЂ” Andrew Cuomo said that the region needed at least 30 thousand ventilation machines, Trump did not believe it. вЂњI have a feeling that many of the figures that are called are very high. I doubt that you will need 40 or 30 thousand mechanical ventilation, вЂќ he reasoned last week when the state already had five percent of all patients with COVID-19 in the world.
Although the president was slowly responding to the growing threat, he was not the only culprit. вЂњThis is also the omission of the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Experts warned that something would happen, but neither team nor the other prepared for such an epidemic, вЂќexplained in a conversation a US resident Jacob Blass, who worked in four non-profit healthcare organizations for twenty years, and he headed three.
Nevertheless, the current president, in his opinion, exacerbated the situation. In 2018, the вЂњpandemic teamвЂќ created by Obama was abolished вЂ” the Department of Global Security in Health and Biosecurity at the White House. Trump believed that hiring people would not be a problem again if necessary.
The chance to minimize the epidemic was missed, according to another agency interlocutor вЂ” MD and practicing pathologist from North Carolina Margaret Johnson. вЂњPrevention of a pandemic is not the responsibility of the healthcare system, but government structures such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,вЂќ she says. вЂ” However, the authorities acted too slowly. вЂњTrump did not listen to experts, closed programs that could track the development of the epidemic in China and prevent it in the States.вЂќ
Every man for himself
Another negative factor is the split in American society, not only political but also in the healthcare sector. вЂњThe main cause of the crisis is the lack of a unified medical system: all hospitals are on their own,вЂќ says Jacob Blass.
The vast majority of hospitals in the United States are private and in no way dependent on the state or on each other. There are large networks, there are small local hospitals. However, under conditions of a general shortage of beds, equipment, and protective equipment, medical facilities are switching to the вЂњevery man for himselfвЂќ regime and are trying to make up the missing supplies on their own. Roughly speaking, all hospitals call the same plant with a request to put the missing ventilation, masks, robes, and tests.
However, some hospitals are so small that they have no way to go to the provider. Due to lack of funds, they are closing, explained Margaret Johnson. вЂњThere is simply not enough money to work when all the patients are old and poor,вЂќ she said.
Trump was expected to enact the Defense Industry Act. This would allow increasing the production and supply of necessary equipment to hospitals in the вЂњwartimeвЂќ mode.
In late March, more than a hundred former employees of the National Security Council called on the head of state to take this step. The answer came a few days later: the president ordered General Motors to produce more ventilators. However, sources told reporters that the company had not officially received any order to enact the law.
Medicine is not for everyone
Another health vulnerability that constantly raises political debate is the insurance system.
вЂњFor many in the country, access to medicine is a problem, and the pandemic simply brought it to the fore,вЂќ says Johnson. Americans can be divided into three categories. The first is wealthy citizens who simply buy insurance. The price depends on a lot: staff, its laws, place of work, income. Such an American pays an average of $440 per month for personal insurance and about $1,168 for family insurance.
In this case, the client usually pays for medical services himself, and then receives a refund. However, with a sudden serious illness, not everyone is able to lay out a round sum from their own pocket. And the company reimburses only part of the costs, usually 80 percent.
The second category is poor. People living below the poverty line are entitled to state insurance Medicaid. It provides free or low-cost care to millions of Americans. The program has its own criteria: take into account earnings, family size, place of residence. Some states have announced in the wake of the pandemic that Medicaid will continue to operate normally.
The most vulnerable in the current situation are 27.5 million Americans who have no insurance at all. In other words, 8.5 percent of the population does not have a chance to use medical services. Of course, they can come to the emergency room and get in line, but this does not guarantee anything.
вЂњHospitals work for money, you just can't go to the hospital and say that you have health problems,вЂќ explains Jacob Blass. вЂњAnd in the emergency departments, there are no quarantine rooms, no means of protection, nothing.вЂќ And itвЂ™s not clear who will pay for it. вЂќ
It was for this group that the so-called Obamacare вЂ” health care reform was intended. Up to 95 percent of the country's citizens should have received health insurance. Congress approved the reform in 2010, but its constitutionality has been debated for a long time. Confused too much budget spending. As a result, after taking office in 2017, Donald Trump ushered in the abolition of Obamacare. In December 2018, the Fort Worth Texas-based Federal Court of Justice declared the reform unconstitutional.
There are still solvent citizens over 65 in the United States. They are entitled to state health insurance. Its cost is about $250 per month, this amount is deducted from the pension. However, it does not cover all medical expenses, but only partially reimburses bills from the hospital. Older Americans can also buy an additional package from the insurance company (just over a hundred dollars), which allows you to receive any kind of medical care for free. вЂњPersonally, I have excellent insurance, I am not complaining,вЂќ Margaret Johnson admitted.
вЂњI pay an extra 120 dollars a month. So, in recent years I have performed two operations on my arm, two on my eyes and one on my heart. Only the latter would cost me more than 50 thousand dollars, but I did not give a cent. вЂњI stayed in the hospital for three days for free, although otherwise it would have cost me three to five thousand dollars,вЂќ says Jacob Blass. вЂњIn addition, I have another additional insurance package for $30 per month that covers drug costs.вЂќ
Both interlocutors agree: they were much luckier than many compatriots: for 350 dollars a month, you donвЂ™t have to worry about the cost of treatment. However, what about the millions of Americans who are not able to afford even basic insurance, they, like the government of the country, do not know.