Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 27 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/18/21

Rising Inequality: the "Pre-Existing Condition" That Doomed the U.S. COVID Response

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
Message Sam Pizzigati
Become a Fan
  (2 fans)

From Smirking Chimp

(Image by Noelle Gillies from flickr)
  Details   DMCA

Back in April 2017, only a few months after Donald Trump's inauguration, one of world's most prestigious medical journals, the London-based Lancet, established a special commission to keep tabs on "Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era."

The panel's 33 commissioners medical professionals of all sorts, along with assorted notables in legal and economic circles have just delivered their final report, and media outlets worldwide are taking notice. They're headlining the commission's most stunning stat: that some 200,000 fewer Americans would have died -- from the coronavirus if the United States had treated Covid with the same level of public health competence that its peer developed nations have demonstrated.

"President Trump's time in office," the Lancet commission charges, "brought misfortune to the USA and the planet."

The 45th president, the commission adds, expedited the spread of Covid with his "contempt for science, facts, and equity."

The Lancet commission analysis abounds in the particulars. Pre-pandemic, for instance, Trump eliminated the National Security Council's global health security team. His 2017 hiring freeze left almost 700 federal disease-control positions vacant. That "compromised preparedness," as did his administration's move, early on, to halt a "nearly completed effort by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop airborne infection control standards for workplaces."

Few Americans will find the commission's core charge that the Trump years undercut American public health particularly surprising. But the Lancet commissioners also have a deeper point to make: The health of the American people was hurtling "on a downward trajectory" even before Trump took office. Between 2014 and 2018, well before the coronavirus, the United States experienced the first three-year decline in life expectancy since World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic.

"Stagnating longevity," the Lancet commission notes, has always "signaled grave societal problems." In the United States, most of those problems revolve around our staggering inequality. Since the 1980s, the commission details, "the disparity between social and economic classes has widened" as unions have lost clout, trade policies have disappeared high-paying jobs, and tax and social policies have "increasingly favored the wealthy."

"This widening income inequality," the commission posits, "has widened inequalities in health."

Adds the panel: "Many of President Trump's policies do not represent a radical break with the past but have merely accelerated the decades-long trend of lagging life expectancy that reflects deep and long-standing flaws in U.S. economic, health, and social policy."

Even President Barack Obama's landmark health care achievement, the Affordable Care Act, "owed more to neoliberal tenets than to the progressive precepts of the Roosevelt era," the commission argues. The ACA left "nearly 30 million uninsured" and funneled new public dollars "through private insurers whose exorbitant overhead and profits drain funds before they reach the clinic."

These arrangements, the Lancet commission continues, "reinforced decades of market-oriented reforms that made profitability the fundamental measure of performance, drove the commodification of care, and increasingly vested control in investor-owned conglomerates."

Trump's policies, in short, have been no aberration. They represent instead "an aggressive acceleration of decades-old trends toward deregulation and market-based reforms" that have helped massive investor-run health-care systems buy up independent hospitals and physician practices and use "their monopoly power to leverage higher fees."

"Venture capital and private equity firms," the commission notes, "have pushed dermatologists they employ to boost revenues by promoting cosmetic procedures, implemented billing practices that saddle emergency patients with surprise bills, and closed urban hospitals sitting on valuable real estate."

For-profit hospitals overall, meanwhile, "often select services on the basis of profitability, resulting in loss of emergency services and harm to communities."

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Sam Pizzigati Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Sam Pizzigati is an  Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies

Editor,  Too Much ,  an online weekly on excess and inequality

Author, The Rich Don't Always (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Presenting America's Ten Greediest of 2013

A Daring Bid to Stomp Out CEO Pay Excess

Are Heartless People Simply Born That Way?

The Evolution of "Davos Man" into . . . Trump Fan!

In an unequal America, empathy, not just housing, has become too pricey

Counting Dollars the Rich Want Uncounted

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend