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Take profit out 

Why our for-profit health care system is unprepared for this current crisis

Every family in America has a horror story to tell around our current health care system. You know what it is. The high cost. The inability to be seen. The denials. The long waits for appointments. The cost of the cure. Many, who have cancer, have gone bankrupt trying to save a life. We all know this, but little has been done to cure our ailing health care system.

Big hospitals have bought out small ones. Medical care has become a monopoly in most places in our country. We are now stuck with what we have.

Add to this the health insurance companies, who only make money by denying service. Their actions are criminal. The same with the greedy drug companies, raising prices on simple drugs, and all for bigger profits.

Then there is the government, who for decades has been complicit in all of this. Republicans and Democrats alike. The last time we had a chance to fix the system, the president and the Congress would not even consider a public option. Lip service was paid to it, but the president didn't fight for it, and one Senate Democrat was allowed to take the public option off the table.

Today, we know that the for-profit health care system we have is not ready for a health crisis in the way a public health care system could be. There are not the hospitals or beds or protective gear or ventilators or even masks. The big fish have eaten the little fish, and we are left with bloated bureaucracies and not enough care.

If, on the other hand, a public health system had preserved small hospitals in every community and health care units in rural areas, we would have a better chance to fight this virus. If the profit motive were removed from health care, attention could have been paid to preparation for the pandemic that many predicted would come. Bottom line is that if health care were a public good, a human right, it would be universal and less expensive to provide. Under those circumstances, we would not be scrambling for answers to the basic question: How do we, as a nation, face a pandemic together, and how can our health care system test for a virus, treat a virus, and develop a vaccine against a virus.

We are where we are because of greed and ignorance. Greed on the part of for-profit health care providers, insurance companies, and drug companies. Ignorance on the part of our leaders, and their funders.

Now we have to take profit out of the health care industry and provide care for all Americans, no matter whether they are white or black, rich or poor, a native American or an immigrant.

The rich should not be tested first, treated first, considered first in line. All American lives matter. So the government has the ability to change an unfair system to one that values all of us, especially in the midst of this pandemic. Those same senators and congressmen who have accepted contributions from the health care industry, health insurance companies, and drug makers have to stand up as one as say, "Americans are more important than the money you have given to me. I'm voting for them, and you need to help us in this crisis to save as many people as you can."

Bernie Sanders, yes that socialist we were told to fear, knows what has to be done and is ready to lead our country in the fight of our lives. What he is proposing in the Senate should be considered seriously, devoid of labels and special interests, and if his solutions are the right solutions, Congress should enact the legislation that is needed to fight this pandemic.

This extends to the economic costs of the virus to ordinary people. Corporations can take care of themselves. They always have and always will. Congress has to take care of us, the working people of America, who they have forgotten for so long. They have to give us financial relief now, and not in small measures like the Republicans propose. We, the people, have been deserted by politicians for too long. It is the decisions of this and past governments that have left us unprepared for this medical and financial disaster. They owe it to all Americans to make things right.

The Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in Congress need to drop their labels and be Americans. What is best for the people? Not their funders, not their party, not their ideology, but the people they have been elected to serve. If they answer that question honestly and with human compassion, we will survive this pandemic. There is no other course they can take. Δ

Gale McNeeley writes from Santa Maria. Send comments through the editor at [email protected] or email a letter for publication to [email protected].

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