Covid bolsters case for U.S. universal healthcare

The United States witnessed the largest decline among 29 nations

  
A person receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as New York State Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandate for healthcare workers, in New York City, U.S., September 27, 2021.

A person receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as New York State Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandate for healthcare workers, in New York City, U.S., September 27, 2021.

Reuters/David 'Dee' Delgado

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

NEW YORK - Discussions of American exceptionalism in healthcare revolve around the 18% of GDP that the country pays each year to keep its population alive and well. But the pandemic shows how badly the population is being served despite that astonishing sum.

American male life expectancy at birth dropped 2.2 years in 2020, according to University of Oxford researchers. The United States witnessed the largest decline among 29 nations. Europe saw life spans fall mostly due to deaths among those 60 and over, whereas, across the Atlantic, there was a large increase in mortality in those under 60.

The United States is the only developed nation to not guarantee health services for all. While most elderly have Medicare, the government-supported insurance scheme, about 30 million mostly poor, working-age people have no health insurance. That can leave them without basic care, or fearful of seeking treatment that could incur giant bills.

The researchers blamed healthcare access as a likely contributory factor for deaths. Even the mightiest U.S. employers have tried and failed to crack the code. After this sobering shift in American longevity, the ball is in lawmakers’ court. (By Robert Cyran)

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

(Editing by John Foley and Amanda Gomez) ((SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS: http://bit.ly/BVsubscribe))


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