Public vs. Private Healthcare: Which handles COVID better?


China Daily CDIC

Medical workers in protective suits attend to novel coronavirus patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of a designated hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 6, 2020. Picture taken February 6, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. – RC2UWE9N0S1O

   In such troubled times as we are facing now with the Covid-19 global pandemic, the health and safety of a government’s citizens is the top priority. Therefore one of the leading areas of political discussion currently is debatably over healthcare, and whether or not it should be free to the American people. 

   This was a rather important issue even before the outbreaks spread to the U.S, largely within the Democratic party’s debates. Both Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar largely opposed healthcare for all, preferring a more public option based system. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren supported a medicare for all system, with it being a leading issue within the Sanders campaign. Recently, Sanders has dropped out of the race, leaving Biden to stand against Trump in the upcoming general election. Essentially, free healthcare for all is currently off the table, at least in the presidential race. There may be hope within the legislative branch, but that seems somewhat unlikely. The debate now will be over the Affordable Care Act, as Biden will be rooting for it while Trump will try to remove it through the courts.  

   It’s very important to understand how countries have handled this crisis as far as testing and treatment goes. So how have countries with universal healthcare handled the Covid-19 pandemic? Countries such as Italy, South Korea and Canada can provide us with an understanding. 

   Italy has obviously been the hardest hit European country, so it’s important to understand how their healthcare system handled the virus. Currently, Italy’s per capita infection rate is still higher than the United States, but is steadily declining along with their mortality rate. However, both the Canadian and Italian governments have tested their citizens at double the rate per capita compared to the United States, showing how a public based healthcare system can offer wide range support to citizens who enjoy it. 

   South Korea,on the other hand, has tested less per capita than the U.S, by a small margin. Universal healthcare does lower overall healthcare costs for the economy, which in turn eases the economic stress many countries will face during and long after this pandemic has passed. It also forces hospitals and doctors to provide the same standard of care at a low cost, allowing for larger amounts of the population to be treated over time. And lastly public sector healthcare eliminates administrative costs by eliminating the need to deal with private insurance so doctors can in turn only have to deal with one governmental agency which eases the financial tension within hospitals during crises like this.    

   The United States has handled the Covid-19 pandemic poorly in many ways largely in the supply of equipment and tests. The Trump administration says that the U.S is currently testing 150,000 people a day, however experts claim it would take a million tests per day in order to be confident in the reopening of businesses across the country. Along with a shortage of tests, many doctors and healthcare workers lack personal protection equipment. This includes eye shields, gowns, masks, gloves, and other medical clothing, and in many states N95 masks have nearly ran out. The U.S is now the epicenter of the pandemic, and if the Trump administration had effectively prepared, this crisis would have had a less devastating effect on the country. 

   The U.S has had a somewhat rough start in dealing with Covid-19, but with time has learned to establish new standards in the medical sphere. Currently the U.S is leading in testing and treatment innovations, with an Illinois based company named Abbott Laboratories developing a five minute test for positive results of Covid-19 and a 13 minute test for negative results. It is growing apparent throughout this crisis that the private sector has taken the lead in medical innovations. Private healthcare allows for consumers to have a free range of choices, instead of having to resort to one governmental agency. It also gives the private sector incentives to perform better, while in a universal healthcare system incentives for improvement generally wouldn’t exist. The private sector is rather unlimited in funds compared to a public system that relies on the government, and citizens’ taxes in turn.              

   It’s my belief that the current system the U.S has is the best in dealing with this pandemic. As long as the Affordable Care Act remains, and is possibly expanded in some way, I think that having the option to pick out health insurance is a key right that should be granted to citizens and businesses alike. Obamacare allows for a fallback if you can’t support yourself, and a wide array of companies can provide you different services. With time, I believe the U.S can tackle this pandemic as long as we continue to innovate with testing and possible cures.