With 12 million people infected and 255,000 dead in the US, Dr. Flowers told ‘On Contact’ host Chris Hedges on Saturday that “it’s fair to say that we have lost control of the virus, and that our healthcare system has left us completely unprepared.”
Flowers, a longtime proponent of Medicare-for-all, singled out varying restrictions implemented on a state-by-state and county-by-county basis, plus a lack of federal control. as drivers of the US’ coronavirus explosion.
However, no matter the measures put in place by governors and local officials, she pinned the lion’s share of the blame on the US’ for-profit healthcare system, which costs Americans twice as much as in any other Western nation and still leaves them ranked 175th out of 195 countries worldwide in terms of access to healthcare – despite the world-class treatment available to those with the means to afford it.
“About a third of our healthcare dollars just go into paperwork,” Flowers explained. Insurance companies, administrators, accountants, and salesmen suck up this money, while no system exists to set and regulate healthcare prices. Drugmakers, too, are not forced by the government to regulate their prices, making the discovery and marketing of new drugs a lucrative venture for these firms.
When President Trump announced several months ago that Covid-19 tests would be covered without copays, health insurers hastened to remind him that treatment would still be charged as usual. When the president touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential therapeutic, one of its manufacturers, Rising Pharmaceuticals, jacked up the price of this medication by 100 percent, before reversing the hike.
Flowers described this behavior as typical of America’s healthcare corporations:
If there’s any opportunity to raise prices, to gouge people, to play people off of each other, that’s what’s best for their shareholders. They just aren’t capable of acting in the public good.
Flowers went on to suggest that if the federal government had introduced a centralized system for recording and tracking coronavirus infections, the toll of the virus may not have been as severe. Similar systems have been deployed with varying results in Asia and Europe, but American society is different. “People are so distrustful of the government here,” she noted. “Especially of giving information, with the amount of surveillance that’s going on, the lack of privacy. People just don’t trust it.”
The University of Washington predicted last month that as many as 511,000 lives could be lost in the US by February. Without an effective vaccine and a coordinated response by states, Flowers warned that “We have very difficult years ahead.”
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