Health Care isn't a Luxury - It's more important than bullets.
The coronavirus pandemic delivered a gut punch to the American people in the spring of 2020. As of today’s writing, the virus has sickened more than 1.1 million people and killed another 71,000. Brutally, the death toll is highest among essential workers who are the backbone of this country. Medical professionals were for the first time in recent history, put in harm’s way to care for the sick. Late action by the Federal government resulted in widespread shortages in personal protective equipment, testing kit supplies, and other basic essentials for fighting a highly contagious disease.
Our political system failed us. Republicans accused Democrat governors of executive power overreach and fatalism. Democrats made the case that Trump’s administration failed to act and inept response caused suffering and preventable deaths. As the nation’s death rates continued to surge, the Trump administration inexplicably pivoted away from the health crisis to focus on the economic one. Citizens watched the drama from their homes as they unsuccessfully tried to claim unemployment.
Finally, the American public saw the link between public health and economic stability. You cannot have one without the other. The current paradigm of awarding decent but expensive healthcare as a perk with no healthcare for everyone else puts us all at risk. Essential workers who couldn’t afford to self-quarantine went to work and were exposed. Undetected underlying health conditions, prevalent in this at-risk population was lethally exploited by COVID-19.
We can no longer accept a poor health standard among our citizens. We need a paradigm shift from Health Care to Health Security.
Health Security As A Pillar of National Security
The United States spends about $750 billion for national defense, a 5-percent increase over the 2019 budget.(1) Comparatively, in 2017, the United States spent $3.5 trillion on health care with about $1.5 trillion contributed by the federal government. The United States’ return on national defense spending is clear - we are the only world superpower. Our return on the 1.5 trillion we spend on health care is abysmal (2) -
- Last in life expectancy among 11 developed countries
- Highest suicide rates
- Highest in the incidence of chronic disease
- The highest rate of obesity
It’s often said that the United States has the most advanced healthcare system in the world. What we don’t mention is that American’s have the least amount of access to that system. This paradox has real implications. Chronic disease is the #1 cause for death and extended recovery times among COVID-19 patients. During the first few months of the pandemic, the United States meat supply was severely threatened because workers were getting sick and dying at higher rates than the populace.
Our health isn’t a “nice to have”. It is a necessity for the health of our economy, supply chain, and military readiness. What if we made U.S.citizens’ health a priority in the same way training and equipping our military is a necessity?
- Health workers are equipped like soldiers. Strategic stockpiles of PPE are stockpiled and can be surged into hotspots using military logistic best practices.
- We can rely on effective pharmaceutical and vaccination research on par with the vast infrastructure used for military weapon research.
- Hospitals are considered to be forward-operating-bases stockpiled with sixty-days of supplies including ventilators, PPE, pharmaceuticals, on-site testing capacity.
- FEMA supported by the Army Corps of Engineers equipped to surge equipment and supplies for sustainable treatment
- Our National security assets are tasked to support the CDC in identifying pandemic threats
- The State Department makes global health security cooperation as a must-have for favored trade relations with the United States
- We actively collaborate with technology companies for the deployment of real-time health monitors and contact tracing apps
- Effective and well communicated national protocol for phased closing and reopening the economy based on threats.
- Congress legislates safeguards to shield our Health security apparatus from political manipulation and staffed with world-class civil appointees.
- Preventative health care to lessen the vulnerability of citizens that have untreated underlying conditions.
- We stand up a stress-tested domestic health equipment supply chain. Our key military assets (submarines, aircraft carriers, M1-Abrams tanks) are built in the US. Our ventilators, PPE, hospital beds, and other equipment should be manufactured here as well.
- The federal government encourages states to stockpile based on the needs of the State.
With $1.5 trillion dollars, we can achieve these priorities. All we need is the will. The Next Step Coalition will fight for this future.
We, the people, can do better.