Common Dreams Health Kenny Stancil

Medicare for All Could Have Prevented More Than 338,000 US Covid Deaths: Study

"Healthcare reform is long overdue in the U.S.," said the lead author of a new study. "Americans are needlessly losing lives and money."
Public health workers, doctors, and nurses protest outside a hospital in the Bronx on April 17, 2020 in New York. (Photo: Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

By Kenny Stancil / Common Dreams

Covid-19 has killed more than one million people in the United States over the past two years, but more than 338,000 of those lives could have been saved if the country had a universal single-payer healthcare system such as Medicare for All.

That’s according to new peer-reviewed research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although U.S. residents pay more for healthcare than their peers around the world, the nation’s fragmented for-profit model leaves tens of millions of people uninsured and delivers worse outcomes.

Unnecessary costs and preventable deaths were already rampant in the U.S. before the coronavirus took hold, but the ongoing pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated the many preexisting inequalities that have contributed to exceptionally high mortality compared with other high-income countries.

Universal single-payer healthcare, which the study calls “fundamental to pandemic preparedness,” could have prevented 338,594 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. from the beginning of the public health emergency to mid-March 2022. Researchers estimate that if everyone in the country was provided with comprehensive care for free at the point of service, 131,438 people who died from Covid-19 could have been spared in 2020 alone, and roughly 80,000 people with other diseases could have been saved that year. More than 207,000 additional Covid-19 deaths could have been averted in 2021 and the first three months of this year.

With Medicare for All, the U.S. also could have avoided $105.6 billion in healthcare expenses associated with Covid-19 hospitalizations over the course of the pandemic, the study says.

“Healthcare reform is long overdue in the U.S.,” the study’s lead author Alison Galvani, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at the Yale School of Public Health, told Scientific American. “Americans are needlessly losing lives and money.”

To arrive at their figures, Galvani’s team compared the mortality risks of Covid-19 and all other causes of death among people with and without health insurance. The researchers amassed population characteristics of all uninsured Americans during the pandemic, considering variables such as age-specific life expectancy and the heightened mortality that accompanies uninsurance.

Because people without health insurance typically do not have a primary care physician, “they are more likely to suffer from preventable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes [and] they also tend to wait longer to see a doctor when they fall ill,” Scientific American explained. “These two factors already contribute to higher mortality rates in nonpandemic years, and they compounded the impacts of Covid-19. Comorbidities exacerbate the risk of the disease, and waiting to seek care increases the likelihood of transmission to other people.”

More than 28 million U.S. adults already lacked health insurance and tens of millions more were underinsured prior to the start of the pandemic. Millions of additional workers were kicked off of their employer-based plans when the coronavirus crisis resulted in widespread unemployment.

“Many Americans feel secure in having good health insurance from their employer,” said Galvani, “but employer-based insurance can be cut off when it is needed most.”

In their new study, the researchers also predict how much insuring the entire U.S. population would cost—and save. They estimate that a single-payer healthcare system would have generated a net savings of $459 billion in 2020 and would yield $438 billion in a nonpandemic year thanks to more efficient investment in preventative care, reduced administrative costs, and increased negotiating power for pharmaceuticals and technology.

“Medicare for All would be both an economic stimulus and lifesaving transformation of our healthcare system,” said Galvani. “It will cost people far less than the status quo.”

Ann Keller, an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley who was not involved with the research, told Scientific American that she thinks the new study may underestimate the number of Covid-19 deaths that could have been prevented with universal healthcare because it doesn’t sufficiently address the relationship between single-payer systems and lower rates of chronic disease.

“Having consistent access to care can prevent chronic disease from occurring and can ensure that patients who develop chronic disease have it better managed,” said Keller. “I would think that, if one took that into account, the estimates of avoided deaths would be greater than the numbers reported here.”

The authors do acknowledge that their “estimates are conservative with regard to the lifesaving benefits of comprehensive universal healthcare that eliminates all costs to the patient” because underinsured people often forgo needed care just like their uninsured counterparts, but the paper focuses only on the latter.

The researchers’ overarching message, Galvani stressed, couldn’t be clearer: “Universal single-payer healthcare is both economically responsible and morally imperative.”

An estimated 44% of U.S. adults—roughly 112 million people—continue to struggle to pay for healthcare. To eliminate the high premiums, deductibles, and copays that currently enrich the insurance industry—making healthcare unaffordable for tens of millions, including many who are nominally insured—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last month introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2022 alongside 14 Senate co-sponsors.

“We can either continue down the path of corporate greed and human suffering, or we can do what every other rich nation has done and guarantee universal coverage,” Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said at the time. “Medicare for All is the realistic, humane, and just choice.”

Kenny Stancil

Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

16 comments

  1. If Fauchi hadn’t been funding american money on gain of function experiments at the Wuhan labs, no one would’ve died from covid. Don’t blame the health system, put the blame for all the deaths where it belongs. Why Fauchi is not in jail is astounding

  2. “They” …the oligarchs and their lackeys in Congress could not possibly care less. As George Carlin heralded, “…once you’re born, you’re on your own.” Our “leaders” [sic (and SICK)] care only about enlarging and managing their obscene wealth, fetuses, and guns.

    1. It will never be affordable if all you circulate is inflationary IOU’s. This now requires a shift in consumer habits

  3. Citizens should have the same healthcare as their employee Congresspersons, or conversely, Congressmembers should have the same healthcare as citizens!

  4. SARS-CoV2, SARS-CoV2, SARS-CoV2 . . . . on and on and on.

    We have millions with messed up bones, teeth rotting, mental health crisis after mental health crisis, with chronic illnesses and co-morbities, and on and on, to include fatty liver disease. Mark that in 40, 60 70 percent of the population. One school counselor for 300 students. Zero holistid medicine and zero clinics in every neighborhood.

    Yes, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and, well, if you swing a hammer for a living, mark that as major back issues.

    Medicare for all to fight Covid?

    Blasphemy. No protocols to be treated with the corona virus. No real medicine, nothing.

    Yeah, single payer health care, while the sons of bitches are downsizing ER doctor numbers:

    Find the story, and see how decayed USA is,

    “Private Equity Gloats Over A Doctor Glut”

    Health care vultures helped create an oversupply of ER physicians — now they want to use the surplus to cut wages and limit care.

    We got a lot of work to do to eliminate those vultures! Those parasites! Those pathogens! Those beautiful people who “invest” in death, destruction, hostile takeovers, leveraging, etc.

    1. Look to yourselves. You trade with IOU’s so inflation is unavoidable over time. Real economic growth that is supported with the ADDITION of debt-free trades is the only way out. It’s the one and only way to get the massive Debt-to-GDP ratio to fall.

      Look what’s in your wallet and the wallet of others and you’ll see my point.

      1. Dialing ftor dollars. Nope. If we distribute the wealth, have a genuine progress index, work on real work (Universal Basic Dead Man Walking Income? This is it for the liberals?) for people, flip the script on education, and do so much more to end this rotting system then we can clear our lungs and bowels of the cancer of Capitalism. It will take work.

        Good stuff by Patel and Marya:

        As much of the world struggles to cope with the pandemic and its impacts, we speak with Dr. Rupa Marya and Raj Patel, co-authors of the new book, “Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice,” which examines the social and environmental roots of poor health. “Inflammation is the body’s appropriate response to damage, or the threat of damage,” says Marya, a physician and co-founder of the Do No Harm Coalition. “We’re learning that the social structures around us, the environmental, political structures around us, are tuning the immune system to sound out the full range of inflammation.” Patel adds that “capitalism primes bodies … for sickness.”

        https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2021/08/23/inflamed-book-medicine-climate-change

  5. Circulate debt-free medium instead of being a bunch of “debt dealers” and you’ll get your wish.

  6. With high population Baby boomers dying,government doesn’t have to pay Social Security benefits.Always follow money trail for malfeasance

    1. Low-income seniors rely on Medicare/Medicaid, with Medicaid covering prescriptions, etc. We’re now 26 yrs into the Democrats’ war on the poor, as they’ve maintained their lead in dismantling that “social safety net.” It’s no secret that Medicaid is next on the Dems’ chopping block.

      1. Off with our heads.

        https://siliconicarus.org/2022/05/19/%ef%bf%bcwhat-is-love-the-murderous-quest-for-immortality-and-transhumanisms-moral-bankruptcy/

        Scientists are divided over the viability of head/whole body transplants, and have been since Dr. Robert J. White chopped a monkey’s head off and grafted it onto the body of another in 1970. Considered to be the first successful procedure of its kind, the ghastly experiment involved the decapitation of more than a hundred rhesus monkeys, which his own colleague called “barbaric” and found to be a worthless scientific exercise.

        Despite surviving only eight days and being paralyzed from the waist down, White and his supporters deemed the resulting Frankenstein to be “by all measures, normal”, and suffering no complications. “Whether such dramatic procedures will ever be justified in the human area,” wrote White in 1975, “must wait not only upon the continued advance of medical science but more appropriately the moral and social justification of such procedural undertakings.”

        Half a century later, this monstrous exploration has reared its bloody head once again through the work of Italian neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, who replicated White’s experiments with monkeys in 2015 and opened the door to performing these gruesome tests on human subjects in 2017, when he performed a “rehearsal” head transplant on two cadavers.

        Canavero has now teamed up with Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren to attempt the grim stunt on living persons. Claiming to have already had some success with animals, their Head Anastomosis Venture or HEAVEN project seeks to solve the spinal linkage problem faced by White and Canavero in their previous attempts, which turned all of the unfortunate victims of their experiments virtually catatonic.

    2. Ronald, yes and also the present health care system makes lots of money for some powerful people. It is Just like our criminal-police-prison setup is profitable for investors.
      And no different than our war economy that gets billions in sales and profits.
      Much of our way of life in America is about money and profits.
      Thanks to social media our politicians are raising millions from ordinary people for their campaigns to maintain our culture, systems, shootings, etc

  7. Medicare for all will only work if it is liberated from the Allopathic & Pharma cartels. Early treatment could have stopped 80% to 90% of our Covid deaths regardless of Medicare for All. Just look at Bangladesh

  8. Sorry but it is another propaganda hit from Common Dreams that makes sure no reality comes from those dreams.

    It is utmost hypocrisy and sign of panic before upcoming November massacre at polls that Dems again pretend to care about Healthcare while it was them who passed Obamacare sham that was nothing but unprecedented bailout ofWall Street Insurance industry while those who wanted government run universal healthcare option like Kucinich were threatened gangster-style and expelled from ranks.

    The proof of that is passed by all relevant committees in 2017 “Medical For all” bill ready to be voted in full California legislature with Dems in total control in both chambers and Democrat as governors.

    But it did not happen as mysteriously the bill was shelved, never brought to vote for three years and then quietly dumped from agenda in 2020. Why,? when it was desperately needed.

    I won’t even address COVID sham as it was a swindle and astronomical bailout of corporate Medical industry and Big Pharma drug pushers. Most of those corporates were convicted felons guilty of causing thousands of deaths except for MODERNA that have never ever brought anything to the market before and hence could not be convicted until now.

    As a matter of fact predictably it were never recommended by WHO before in history of pandemics deadly lockdowns, socially catastrophic deliberate collapsing of economy and outright denial of Healthcare to millions under guise of non-existent emergency in circumstances of minuscule threat to younger working population that resulted in significant excess mortality of mostly elderly with multiple comorbidities in 2020-21 epidemiological season.

    And that season included ten months of unprecedented coercive, under threat of social and economic alienation and poverty mass vaccination campaign using FDA EUA authorized never mass used before mRNA based bio active agents characterized by manufacturers like Pfizer as “genetic treatment” .

    Interestingly there was no total seasonal excess mortality in 2019-20 season (October 1, 2019-September 30, 2020) despite the fact that allegedly SARS-COV2 circulated worldwide since November 2019 or earlier according to WHO.

    The disease turned out to be much milder than draconian policies of deliberate stoking socioeconomic anxiety resulting in new Pandemic of mental illnesses, collapsing healthcare system, denying medical help to tens of millions that was primarily responsible for observed millions of deaths worldwide. .

    Anyone who thinks that corporate owned Dems want Medicare for all or even universal healthcare which means outright liquidation of Corporate medicine and Wall Street run several trillions of dollars worth Health insurance industry and instead 90% takeover by state, are just morons.

    Dems as much as Reps bankrolled by Wall Street do not want better healthcare for people because sick people bring trillions of dollars in profits from dead and still living.

    Acceptance of such status quo shows deep demoralization of ruling elites and wholesale dehumanization of American people by oligarchic class Reps and Dems dutifully serve.

  9. Accept reality. Congress knows that universal health care makes no sense in a country that denies basic human rights (UN’s UDHR) to food and shelter to those left jobless, in poverty. It’s not going to happen.

  10. Lies, damned lies, and statistics of covid deaths pulled out of the hat again for another rerun of the endless series of reformers calling for universal health care and blah, blah, blah. Be careful what you wish for. The medical industrial complex is the leading cause of death in the U$, and its fraudulent bizzness is not too far behind the military industrial complex. Of course with covid it’s become clear that medical tyranny for all, with or without rackets like Medicare, is what our masters have in store for us.

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