A recent editorial in The Financial Times correctly stated that COVID-19 had “laid bare the frailty of the social contract.” This is an obvious truth, but I wonder how many people truly understand just how profoundly the virus has exposed our societal nakedness.

The US has a long history of being unprepared for disaster. From Pearl Harbor to Katrina to COVID-19, our record isn’t good. But this disaster has exposed new weaknesses and will hopefully change us forever.

COVID-19 threatens every American in ways we haven’t experienced since the Second World War. It’s not isolated to New York or New Orleans. It doesn’t discriminate. America seems much more vulnerable than other countries. Approximately 3.5 million Americans have lost their insurance coverage due to economic tightening. Compare that to how many have lost coverage in Canada, Germany, France Japan and a dozen other nations: 0

Are we learning and adjusting? I don’t see much evidence of that. Republicans and Democrats have offered millions of terrified, suffering people what a basically amounts to a pittance, an amount that doesn’t begin to cover housing and insurance, especially if you’re on COBRA. It’s a travesty.

A reasonable solution would be to open up Medicare to all Americans, at least temporarily, but there’s little or no support for that within the Democratic brain trust. Biden stubbornly (and stupidly) refuses to endorse universal coverage, and it will likely cost him the election. The man is woefully out of touch with reality.  If the Democrats can’t coalesce and support it, there’s no hope. At least in the short term.

In the long term, I’m hopeful the young people in America have long memories and will turn their backs on the two party establishment. Most of them have already realized that the current two party system is an abject failure and doesn’t represent their needs or views. I mean, what more evidence do you need than being hopelessly and indefinitely out of work and with no insurance while under a quarantine? And even with insurance, there are no guarantees you can receive treatment if you’re sick, because there aren’t enough hospital beds. And why aren’t there enough beds? There aren’t enough beds, because profit driven healthcare optimizes high occupancy in hospitals. Hospitals don’t want empty beds. They’re like hotels and don’t over build. Every bed needs a paying patient, and who benefits?

The owners and senior executives.

It’s not a system built for disasters, and it’s definitely not built for the poor.  But it is a good time to perhaps recall the founding of our greatest healthcare institution, The Mayo Clinic. Mayo was founded by Dr. Will Mayo with the help of Franciscan nuns. It was founded to insure all people, regardless of their financial situation, would have access to good healthcare.  It’s a good time for us to reevaluate the role of healthcare in America, to view it as a vocation, not as a business. It’s a time for us to reject partisanship and to embrace pragmatism. To insist on the implementation of an economic and social system that prioritizes democracy and fairness over profit.

That’s the cornerstone of preparedness.

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