Coronavirus and Medicare for All

Medical team in Wuhan.
Medical team in Wuhan. | Photo: Cheng Min/Xinhua

By Chris Fry

The current COVID-19 pandemic, better known as Coronavirus, as of Feb. 27, has infected more than 82,732 people worldwide, causing the deaths of some 2,813 people. First detected in Wuhan, China, it has spread to at least 52 countries on six continents, including the U.S. with 60 confirmed cases. With Boss Trump having slashed public health funding and firing hundreds of workers, it is clear that the U.S. is unprepared to deal with this crisis that medical experts say is bound to explode.

Currently testing for the virus can only be done at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta. Today a person in California who suffered for several days and who was not tested because she did not meet Trump’s testing criteria of having travelled abroad or being in direct contact with someone who has, finally was diagnosed with Coronavirus. This means that she caught it from a “community contact”.

The Trump’s regime’s response to this emergency, based on protecting stock prices on Wall Street, has been a dismal failure. An article in the Washington Post revealed:

A whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking federal protection after complaining that more than a dozen workers who received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training or protective gear for coronavirus infection control.”

As this crisis unfolds in this country, where millions of poor and working people avoid seeing a physician because of the high cost, it is clear that enhanced Medicare for all, making health care a human right, is absolutely essential to deal with epidemics like Coronavirus. As an article in the New Republic put it:

Leaving 27.5 million people uninsured is a public health crisis that will only worsen as temperatures rise. Medicare for All won’t solve the structural inequalities making people sick, which will require a far broader array of policy and investments in everything from housing to social services. But to protect public health in a warming world, universal health care is a no-brainer.

Bernie Sanders and his supporters should be commended in their call for enhanced Medicare for All. That proposal should be supported by every progressive. Free medical care would provide everyone the opportunity to report their symptoms and be tested for this dangerous microbe. Even outside of the current Coronavirus crisis, a study in the medical journal Lancet reported that Medicare for All would save 68,000 lives per year. But universal health insurance is only the first step to fight an epidemic like Coronavirus.

China first encountered this infection last December. Workers throughout the country were mobilized in sanitation and food distribution campaigns to quarantined households. Thousands of health care workers heroically cared for tens of thousands of patients, many sacrificing their lives to do so. Workers labored for the speedy construction of hospitals and the production and distribution of drugs and protective gear. As a result, the rate of new infections has declined sharply.

Why has China been able to organize this effort? It is because the PRC is a workers state, a term coined by Karl Marx 150 years ago to describe the Paris Commune, where the workers rose up and established a government run by and for the working class, not the capitalist class. That is why workers in China, like those in Cuba, Korea and Vietnam, operating within a planned economy that is designed to meet the peoples’ needs rather than amassing profits, are motivated to work together to deal with natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and epidemics like the Coronavirus outbreak.

The failure of the Trump regime and U.S. imperialism to deal with this threat is clear for all to see. Panic has gripped Wall Street while bigoted evangelical VP Mike Pence is placed at the head of the “team” to deal with this crisis. Testing kits, protective gear, drugs, and most of all, effective strategies are in woefully short supply.

Meanwhile, a wave of racist attacks against Asian people has unfolded, with no comment from the white supremacist Trump regime. But no amount of racist attacks on migrants and sanctuary seekers, no vicious ICE raids tearing apart families in our communities, no police shooting of oppressed youth, no wall along the border will stop this or future epidemics.

Only class solidarity among the workers and oppressed, along with militant struggle, will create the social structure that we need to combat this new threat to ourselves and our families.

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