Medicare for All could have saved 338,000 U.S. citizens from COVID deaths

At least 207,000 covid deaths could have been avoided in 2021 and the first three months of this year

The U.S. health care system should have been reformed a long time ago. Then many Americans would not have had to die or lose their savings.

Over the past two years, more than a million people have died from Covid-19 in the U.S., but at least 338,000 of those lives could have been saved if there had been a universal and unified health care system in the country, such as Medicare for All.

This is evidenced by a peer-reviewed study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although U.S. residents pay more for health care than people in other countries, as a result of the fragmented commercial model, the state of Health is worse and tens of millions of Americans do not have health insurance.

Existing inequalities were exposed and exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

Needless costs and avoidable deaths were already rife in the US before the coronavirus hit. But the existing inequalities, which have contributed to mortality in the US being vastly higher than in comparable countries, were exposed and exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

With a general and uniform financing system for health care, according to the study “crucial to be prepared for epidemics”, 338,594 deaths from covid could have been avoided between the start of the corona crisis and mid-March this year. The researchers estimate that if everyone in the country could have enjoyed comprehensive care at the health center free of charge, 131,438 people who died of corona could have been saved in 2020 alone, as well as some 80,000 people who succumbed to other diseases during that period. At least 207,000 covid deaths could have been avoided in 2021 and the first three months of this year.

At least 207,000 covid deaths could have been avoided in 2021 and the first three months of this year.

According to the study, with Medicare for All, the US could have additionally avoided $ 105.6 billion in medical costs for covid-related hospitalizations in the course of the corona crisis.

“The U.S. health care system should have been reformed a long time ago,” said Alison Galvani, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at Yale School of Public Health. “Then many Americans would not have had to die or lose their savings.’

Galvani’s team came to these numbers by comparing the risk of death from covid, or any other disease, between people with and those without health insurance. During the corona crisis, the researchers collected the demographic characteristics of all uninsured Americans, taking into account variables such as age-specific life expectancy and the increased mortality associated with not being insured.

Because people without health insurance usually do not have a family doctor either, they suffer more often from preventable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and, when they are sick, postpone a doctor’s visit longer. In ordinary times, these two factors are already contributing to higher mortality, and now they are weighing down the impact of Covid-19. Underlying conditions increase the risks in the event of a Corona infection and because people do not get care on time, they can also infect more others.

Before the corona crisis, more than 28 million adults in the US already had no health insurance and tens of millions were insufficiently insured. Another million workers tumbled out of their group insurance when the corona crisis caused widespread unemployment.

“Many Americans think they are safe if they have good health insurance from their employer,” says Galvani, ” but such group insurance falls away precisely when you need it most.’

In their study, the researchers also calculate how much it would cost to insure the entire American population … and how much that would save. They estimate that a unified health care system would have delivered net savings of $ 459 billion in 2020 and $ 438 billion in a year without a pandemic, thanks to more efficient investments in preventive care, lower administrative costs and greater bargaining power on medicines and technology.

“Medicare for All would cost people less than the status quo.’

“Medicare for All would be both an economic stimulus and a life-saving transformation of our health care system,” Galvani said. “It will cost the people less than the status quo.’

Ann Keller, an associate professor of Health Policy and management at the University of California at Berkeley, who was not involved in this study, thinks the study still underestimates the number of covid deaths that could have been avoided with a general health insurance program. According to her, the study does not sufficiently address the relationship between a uniform system and lower rates of chronic diseases.

“Where people have good access to health care, many chronic diseases are avoided and patients with chronic disease can be better cared for,” says Keller. “If this were taken into account, I think the estimated number of deaths avoided would have been higher than now in the study.’

The authors acknowledge that their “estimates are cautious with respect to the general comprehensive health care that leaves no cost to the patient,” because underinsured people sometimes forgo necessary care as often as uninsured people, but the study focused only on that last group.

The overarching message of the researchers can only be so clear, confirms Galvani: ‘an overall uniform health care system is economically justified and morally a must.’

An estimated 44% of adults in the U.S., some 112 million people, have the greatest difficulty paying for their health care. Precisely to end the high premiums, deductions and deductibles that currently enrich the insurance industry and make health care unaffordable for tens of millions of people, including many who are nominally insured, senator Bernie Sanders, along with 14 others, filed the Medicare for All Act 2022 in the Senate last month.

“We have a choice: Either continue to walk the path of a greedy corporate world that is cold to human suffering or do what every other rich country has already done and thus make health insurance universal,” said Robert Weissman, chairman of the lobby group Public Citizen. “Medicare for All is the realistic, humane and just Choice.’

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