My own experience of American healthcare has been uniformly disastrous. In one instance, my family was charged over $1000 after our youngest daughter had to have a small piece of nut dislodged from her nose; in another, an incompetent nurse tried multiple times to insert an IV drip into my wife’s hand.
In both instances, the hospital tried to maximise the complexity of the procedures given. In both instances, they engaged in price-gouging.
In truth, the modern US healthcare system is a monstrosity dreamed up by K-Street lobbyists. It exists to serve the interests of various cartels: the Doctors Cartel, Big Pharma, Big Medicine and the Washington Cartel.
It is neither a free market, nor socialised healthcare. Instead of taking the best of both systems, it takes the worst. I can only imagine that the main reason that establishment Republicans and Democrats are so committed to it is because, as members of the Washington Cartel, they personally benefit from its largess. Certainly, it cannot be for ideological reasons.
If the coronavirus pandemic fully takes off in the United States, the shortcomings of the current healthcare system are going to be brutally exposed.
Family finances are already in a terrible state. How are people going to cope when one or more members have to spend weeks in hospital in intensive care?
How are medical professionals, attracted to the profession by the six-figure salaries, going to stand up to working in a situation where nosocomial transmission is one of the major drivers of disease spread? What if, absent government diktat or personal conviction, they are not willing to put their lives on the line? What if they just walk away?
How are hospitals going to respond when they face debilitating operating circumstances?
Will compassion drive the medical industry? No! Since when did compassion ever drive business? Profit does.
What works in peacetime often doesn’t in war. Before and after the Second World War in the UK, people bought freely in the stores. During the war, there was rationing. As a nation, we were and remain ideologically committed to the free market, to people being able to buy as much Marmite and lard as they want. But we suspended this for the war.
A pandemic may well force similar exigencies on the American Right. This crisis is already calling for extraordinary acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of medical professionals. For the sake of national security, neither Wall Street, which has sold America to the Chinese, nor the pricegougers in hospitals can be trusted with the response to the pandemic.
So, how will President Trump respond? What will Vice President Pence’s response be when people are facilitating the spread of COVID-19, because they cannot afford any interaction with the medical industry?
Will it be business as usual, giving Wall Street a massive payday whilst bankrupting ordinary families, and allowing COVID-19 to spread unhindered?
Will the Administration go full free market, at the very moment when it makes the least sense to do so?
Or, will a Trump Presidency mandate that churches, trusts and non-profits take over healthcare, and charge them with the service of the common good? Why not consider free emergency and pandemic care where it is in the General Welfare to do so? Why not use the crisis to start cutting the ties that have allowed doctors and the medical industry to bleed the treasury dry?
If they do not adapt their thinking, American conservatives may well be waking up to Comrade Sanders in the White House.
Do not underestimate the appeal of socialised medicine in a pandemic!