By Katie Nauth
Navigating our health care system is a riddle for most people in the best of times. Like so many Americans, I’ve gone years without care. Even when I thought I was covered by employer-based insurance, I was often surprised by hefty medical bills. After years of health care instability, I’m grateful to finally have adequate health insurance, subsidized by my employer. But after several rounds of Covid-related layoffs where I work, there is no guarantee that I will remain employed during this tumultuous time. If I lose my job, my family loses our insurance. Which makes me worry, what happens if one of us gets Covid-19?
The Commonwealth Fund estimates that between February and June of 2020 about 7.7 million Americans lost their employer-based health insurance and, with them, an additional 6.9 million dependents have gone uninsured. Add that to the existing 28.9 million uninsured Americans estimated by the Kaiser Family Foundation and you get a whopping 44 million Americans (about 13% of the population) without any reliable means for paying for health care.
The average cost of hospitalization for Covid-19 comes in at $14,366 according to MarketWatch. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of money to spare in my savings. And I know I’m not alone. The United Way of Wisconsin estimates that 37% of households in La Crosse county struggle to meet all of their basic monthly household expenses, including food, housing and health care.
The stress that this pandemic has put on the health and finances of our community is dire, and if we don’t act to address it we won’t just see a continued rise in deaths; we will also see waves of bankruptcies and evictions hit our community in the coming months. Luckily there is a bill in the House and the Senate right now that would ensure that all Americans have access to the life-saving care they would need if they contract Covid-19, regardless of whether or not they are insured. The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act (HCEGA), S. 3790, H.R. 6906, would leverage the existing funds and infrastructure of Medicare to pay for medically necessary health care for individuals with Covid-19 for the duration of the pandemic.
The Coulee Democratic Socialists of America, which I represent, is partnering with Our Wisconsin Revolution and the Wisconsin Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, to demand that our representatives support this legislation (Click here to add your name to our campaign). We are calling on Ron Kind to co-sponsor H.R. 6906 and demonstrate the leadership that we need at this time to safeguard the lives of our friends, family and neighbors.
This pandemic is not over yet. According to the CDC, La Crosse county’s positivity rate is in the teens and rising. The hospitals are full. Our health care staff are exhausted and in danger. Many families are struggling to pay their bills. The least we can do is ensure that those who do get sick with this illness don’t go bankrupt to survive. The least we can do is pass the HCEGA.
Katie Nauth lives in La Crosse and is the co-chair of the Coulee Democratic Socialists.
Image credit: A paramedic takes a patient from an ambulance to an emergency arrival area at Elmhurst Hospital during the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Queens borough of New York City/Ninian Reed/CC BY 2.0
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