Why America Needs a Public Option

Isaac Kan | JULY 4, 2020 

In every email I’ve opened since March, the opening line has been “I hope you’re well.” And while I appreciate the sentiment, I’ve found myself wondering: if that regard holds weight in light of the coronavirus pandemic, what is hoping going to do? If we want America to be well, we can’t just hope. We have to act. 

As America continues to suffer from the worst pandemic in a century, our country is collapsing. The U.S. jobs report released in June shows that 30 million Americans have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic. Americans are losing their livelihoods and their lives at an unprecedented rate. But what we’ve failed to consider is that lost jobs have also cost Americans their insurance coverage.

Job loss in the coronavirus pandemic carries with it two things: loss of income and loss of health insurance for those covered by their employer. In the next two months, 35 million people will lose job-based insurance because of the pandemic on top of the 28 million who were uninsured before.

 

However, a public option healthcare system will allow Americans to retain affordable coverage even while in between jobs. First off, what is a public option? It’s essentially a government-provided healthcare plan available for people (and companies) to buy in healthcare exchanges. 

 

The Association of Health Care Journalists tells us two months ago that with a public option system providing Medicare, people who’ve lost their jobs don’t have to worry about losing their insurance. 

With the projection that the coronavirus pandemic will linger until 2024, the impacts of a public option aren’t just in the short term, but the long term as well. Americans are suffering immense hardship during this pandemic, and when 36 million people are unemployed and uninsured while dealing with a global pandemic, change is necessary. Healthcare may seem trivial, but for millions of Americans, it is monumental.

A public option could also save hospitals which have been overburdened by the COVID-19 pandemic $350 billion annually, nearly 15% of all health care spending. Government medicare systems have simplified financing systems, making it far easier for hospitals to process paperwork, streamline treatment, and decrease administrative costs. Hospital workers have pledged their lives to serve the American people in the coronavirus pandemic- it’s time that our government aids them in their struggle.

When almost 70% of all Americans support a public option, it’s clear that such it is categorically in the interest of the American people. For the thousands of Americans killed by the Covid-19 pandemic, for the millions who can’t afford insurance - it is imperative that we work to create change for them. All Americans deserve a chance. Only a change in our policy can ensure that health isn’t just for some Americans, but all. 

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