Don’t forget, Dusty: if you can’t get your Congressional colleagues to agree on restoring federal coronavirus relief measures, you’re killing more Americans:
The lack of economic safeguards for Americans is making Covid-19 worse, too.
The latest evidence is a study showing that lifting state-level eviction moratoriums, which allowed landlords to once again kick out renters for nonpayment, was associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections. Between March and September, getting rid of the bans and allowing evictions to continue led to as many as 433,700 excess Covid-19 cases and 10,700 deaths, the researchers found.
Meanwhile, the lack of relief for small-business owners is forcing many to choose between closing their doors forever or staying open during the pandemic — and contributing to transmission rates. “They’re making heartbreaking decisions every day,” Lindsey Leininger, a public health educator and professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, told Vox.
And with unemployment benefits running out, workers are forced to go back to unsafe occupations, even if they have underlying conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus. “We have not made it feasible for most people to safely shelter in place,” Camara Phyllis Jones, a family physician, epidemiologist, and past president of the American Public Health Association, told Vox [Anna North, “The Government’s Failure to Provide Economic Relief Is Killing People,” Vox, 2020.12.02].
One key step we could take with new coronavirus relief would be to cover health care expenses for everyone who’s unemployed. But where, oh where, could we find a health insurance program that could cover the hospital bills for millions of out-of-work Americans and their families?
“With millions of people losing their jobs because of a pandemic, it’s both crazy and immoral for them to be stripped of health insurance,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “If we had a Medicare for All system, this kind of problem wouldn’t occur. But we can’t wait to win Medicare for All. The solution to this immediate problem is to enroll all unemployed people in Medicare.”
“Not only can Medicare help individual Americans get through this crisis, but it also can help us collectively protect public health as the pandemic intensifies,” he added [Public Citizen, “People to Congress: Enroll Laid-Off Workers in Medicare,” 2020.04.06].
Providing health insurance to unemployed Americans during the pandemic requires flipping one policy switch: tell hospitals that if patients present their unemployment check or letter from the Department of Labor confirming they qualify for unemployment benefits, the hospitals send the bills for those patients’ care to Medicare. Such temporary coverage would help save the unemployed time and money, resources they desperately need to keep themselves safe from coronavirus, take care of their families, and look for work. And every dollar the unemployed don’t lose to hospital bills is a dollar they can use to keep their apartments and support their local economies.
Congressman Johnson, talk to your colleagues about including some health insurance relief in the December coronavirus assistance bill. Put the unemployed on Medicare to tide them over until they can safely go back to work.