Dr. L. Rockney to VC Reporter: Published Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused historical levels of unemployment.  Over 40,000,000 people are unemployed and counting.  As of May 13, 2020,  27 million of these newly unemployed Americans  lost their employee based medical insurance. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that between 25 million and 43 million people could lose their employer based medical insurance if job losses continue.  Most people in the United States get their health coverage through their jobs. Prior to the COVID pandemic, there were already 28 million people in the United States without medical insurance. The ranks are rising. The COVID pandemic highlights the need for single payor health insurance that covers all Americans at all times. If there is any time people need access to healthcare, it is during a global pandemic.  We can’t depend on our jobs to receive our health care. People who purchase individual insurance plans struggle with medical costs due to exorbitant premiums, large co-pays, high deductibles and expensive medications.  Now more than ever, we need a single payor system that guarantees health care for all.  Many countries like Sweden, Denmark, Canada, the UK have single payor systems that cost far less and perform far better than our system in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, and many other measures.  The bulk of our medical dollars goes to pay insurance company CEO’s, administrators and drug companies.  We would have much better bargaining power with drug companies if there were a single payor system. Lack of health care for all further separates the haves from the have nots, keeping the poor even more disadvantaged.  The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act (HR-6906/S-3790) enables Medicare to cover all Americans who lack health insurance during the pandemic until a vaccine against COVID becomes available. Please Contact Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Julia Brownley and encourage them to add their support.   Senator Kamala Harris is one of the co-sponsors of the bill.  Ultimately, we need Medicare for all.  All Americans should be guaranteed access to medical care at all times.

LETTERS | June 2020

Dr. H. Petroff to the Ojai Valley News: Published Friday, July 10, 2020.

The American healthcare system had a lot of problems before COVID arrived, but now things are about to get much worse. Pre-COVID, 28 million people had no insurance, and many of the people with insurance couldn’t afford their premiums, deductibles, and copays.  Now, the number of uninsured people is expected to at least double from job losses and businesses having to cut back on benefits due to the pandemic.  In our Post-COVID economy, employer-based health care looks even more inadequate than it did before. 

Many of us have been advocating for the expansion of Medicare as a solution to this problem.  For those who like the idea but are worried about its feasibility, COVID has provided an opportunity to give this model a trial run without having to commit to it forever. The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act (HR-6906/S-3790) extends Medicare, with no deductibles or copays, to everyone in America who currently has no health insurance.  For those with insurance, their copays, deductibles and other unaffordable out of pocket expenses would also be covered by Medicare.  This would continue in effect until there is a widely available vaccine against COVID. At that point, Americans could decide if we want to keep this model or move on.

Yes, this will cost money (estimated about $400 billion). This is actually less than a competing bill that proposes the government cover COBRA payments to insurance companies so that newly unemployed people (i.e.: only half of the 50 million+ people who will need coverage) can keep their overpriced inadequate employer-based insurance for a few more months.  Compared to the over 2.4 trillion (i.e.: 6 times $400 billion) that the government has already spent on COVID without addressing our healthcare emergency, this seems like a reasonable investment. 

Senator Kamala Harris is already one of the co-sponsors of the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act.  I encourage my fellow Ojaians to urge Representative Julia Brownley and Senator Dianne Feinstein to add their support.  Life has been giving us a lot of lemons lately, let’s make some lemonade out of it!

Dr. L. Pawson to VC Star: Published July 11, 2020.

The Ventura County Star has a “Coronavirus Unemployment Tracker.” Click on that tracker to look at the situation in Ventura and you will see that 13.9% (54,959 individuals) of the total Ventura County labor force ( 406,768) was unemployed in April 2020 compared to 3% in May 2019. Those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic also lost their health insurance IF they had any employer based health insurance to begin with. About 70% of Americans that have health insurance obtain it through their work. This loss of job resulting in loss of health insurance NOW, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, exposes the broken for-profit health insurance system in the USA as the catastrophe that it is. It leaves every one of us one job loss away from possible bankruptcy due to medical bills. Losing health insurance in the middle of a pandemic is cruel. Close to 30 million Americans didn’t have ANY health insurance prior to the pandemic despite many of them being employed. Those fellow Americans always face choosing to pay for the roof over their heads or the food on their tables over seeking needed healthcare. We need a National Health Insurance program NOW. The HealthCare Emergency Guarantee Act H.R.6906 / S.B.3790 was introduced in Congress in May. It would expand Medicare coverage immediately to all uninsured persons and cover the cost sharing expenses of deductibles and copays for the insured and under-insured for the duration of the pandemic. We must guarantee access to healthcare with universal national health insurance and freedom from the fear that accompanies this shameful lack of a basic safety net. Call your members of Congress and urge them to advocate and fight for us by supporting the HealthCare Emergency Guarantee Act.


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