To Defeat Coronavirus, We Need to Expand Medicare

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      The novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed many failings in our health care system, among them the unreliability and excessive cost of employer-sponsored health insurance. More than 40 million people are newly unemployed as a result of the pandemic. According to economists at University of Massachusetts, PERI, among these newly unemployed, 25.6 million workers and their families—more than 75 million people—are also likely to be uninsured.

      To contain the virus and relaunch the economy, everyone needs health care. But without employer-sponsored health insurance and a paycheck, many workers are no longer able to afford the care they need. During a pandemic, that puts all of us in danger.

      Congress has already passed more than $2.7 trillion in COVID-19 stimulus funds. But, it has not yet passed legislation that will ensure no one skips or delays care because of the cost. Last month, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the House passed legislation that would cover the cost of COBRA—health insurance that is an extension of employer coverage—for about 52 million people, 17.2 million workers and their families. This does nothing to help workers who lost their jobs but did not have employer coverage. It also does not guarantee that workers who did have employer coverage will get care, since out-of-pocket health care costs for families with employer health insurance average more than $3,000 a year.

      Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) have proposed a simple, cost-effective way to guarantee everyone who recently has lost their jobs, including those without employer coverage, health care during this pandemic. The federal government would cover their health care costs through Medicare; it would also cover any out-of-pocket costs that exceed five percent of their income. In effect, these workers and their families would have coverage that’s better than employer coverage

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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