While the sad outbreak of Corona has rightly attracted the attention of the world to itself, there is another side to this global crisis, which is not less sad. Amid the desperate struggles, countries are making to stay alive through this difficulty, the way the United States is dealing with this crisis brings serious questions to mind.
While bearing the label of being in the First World, medical insurance and facilities are not justly distributed in some of these countries. Literally millions of people suffer from lack of medical benefits in the middle of this health crisis. Among the so-called first world countries, US is the most (in)famous in this regard. According to a report, published by the US Census Bureau in 2019, more than 27 million Americans do not enjoy any form of health insurance throughout the year. And in this environment, people who “are hospitalized with the Coronavirus can expect to pay anywhere from $42,486 to $74,310 if they are uninsured or if they receive care that’s deemed out-of-network by their insurance company.” These low-income people, who are mostly the ones who are uninsured, are more at risk due to their living and working conditions and also low-quality diet. And this makes the situation even worse.
As the Coronavirus brutally continues to claim lives and spread in America, Donald Trump recently tried to ease the treatment and diagnostic process for Americans by reimbursing hospitals for treating the uninsured. Although this belated act of Trump’s administration will undoubtedly be a relief for lower class and needy Americans to some extent, it must probably be seen as just an impulsive and sporadic response and not a panacea to fill the gaps in social inequality.
Another problem in the US health care system that it is now suffering from is the shortage of medical facilities and equipment necessary to protect the health professionals and to care for the patients. This equipment ranges from masks, gowns, and gloves to ventilators. Now that America has been hit by Corona, it is meeting with such medical deficiencies even though 7 of the top 10 medical equipment companies are American. The shortage in medical supplies has become so desperate in American hospitals that some doctors have decided to tackle the problem by buying needed equipment from the black market. In this regard, The New York Post states, “Doctors and nurses across the nation report having to ration and reuse masks and other personal protective equipment. Shortages increase their risk of exposure - which can put them in quarantine, unable to help treat the growing number of patients.”
The fact that the US, which is one of the richest countries in the world, has found itself unable to effectively manage such a crisis is perhaps indicative of a bigger issue. There seems to be something wrong with the ideological system governing the US that prevents this country from providing its people, in whatever social class they belong, with enough care and protection. When a country is politically, economically, and culturally based on “self-interest” in principle, it becomes nearly impossible to care for the people. And seemingly, this is exactly the reason behind what is happening in the US now.
Run and governed by a strong capitalistic spirit, which gives priority to the material self-interests and profit of a minority over the welfare of the majority, providing and spending for “the people” in general becomes absurd and is a self-contradiction. On the social scale, this extremely individualistic attitude most visibly manifests itself in the US healthcare system, which has become a “private for-profit” system and is only for those lucky enough to have it, instead of it being a public health system serving all the population. Accordingly, when funds are available, they are definitely used to support and guarantee the continued profit of the wealthy minority, even in the middle of such a severe crisis as the Coronavirus pandemic. The public is not and cannot be the first priority. As a living proof of this, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis in America, the US Federal Reserve “made $1.5tn available to banks, at the slightest hint of difficulties making trades. No one batted an eye. [But] when it comes to the health of the nation as a whole, money like this isn’t available. And there are no institutions analogous to the Fed with responsibility for overseeing and managing the public’s health - able to whip out a giant checkbook at a moment’s notice to prevent human, rather than financial, devastation.”
This extremely self-centered, individualistic spirit has caused American society to witness inhumane and shocking events during the Corona outbreak. For example, when looking at the news related to Corona in the US, it becomes difficult to overlook the headline which reads “People with Down syndrome could be left to die of coronavirus to ‘save’ medical supplies” referring to the new guidelines published by Alabama officials saying that “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.” One is sadly reminded of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s eugenics programs! Is it possible that capitalism is so out of control as to feel satisfied at the demise of the society’s old and weak?
Interestingly, but perhaps not at all surprisingly, America’s egocentrism has had international repercussions. Recently, the US denied medical supplies to Canada by closing its borders. It also outrageously committed what came to be called an act of “modern piracy” in the media by stealing/seizing millions of protective masks, which had primarily been ordered by France and Germany and which were meant to be shipped to Europe. In addition, although the world is suffering from a global humanitarian crisis, the US rejects the public demand to lift medical sanctions against Iran.
At first glance, one is shocked at what America has become during the present health crisis. However, a deeper study takes one’s attention away from the present health crisis as being the cause, and causes him/her to focus on the ideology and worldview that gave birth to such horrific and inhumane conduct, which ignores the rights of other countries outside from itself, and the rights of its own people inside. It is very likely that this attitude will consume it and lead to its self-destruction.