Main menu


From COVID-19 to the climate crisis, America's healthcare must be boosted

Unprecedented health crises are converging.
The West Coast is on fire again, with unprecedented wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington leading to evacuations, devastating neighborhoods, some of the worst air quality in the world and an increase in deaths. Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana with devastating winds and storm surge, destroyed homes, started a chemical fire at a petrochemical plant and dumped toxic pollution into communities already facing some of the worst pollution in the country.

Meanwhile, the United States has passed 6 million COVID-19 infections and is fast approaching 200,000 deaths, and people of color are affected at a much higher rate than white Americans. Recent studies have confirmed the dangerous health consequences of air pollution, including the link to more serious COVID-19 outcomes.

As Americans grapple with the pandemic and the impacts of climate change, Congressional committees in the House and Senate have released reports this summer that provide roadmaps for reducing global warming emissions and improving health. The reports also confront the realities that COVID-19 has uncovered: Solutions must address health and environmental inequalities in communities of color while building a more resilient healthcare system.

Healthcare is critical to both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, providing front-line patient care and providing safe havens when people need it most. But our health care system is weak because hospitals, clinics, and community health centers are struggling financially due to the pandemic. Low-income communities and societies are experiencing the worst impacts from air pollution, extreme weather events, and COVID-19.

As a recent Senate report indicates, the healthcare sector is responsible for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and can reduce their impact without increasing the bottom line: “By taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, waste and energy efficiency, hospitals can save more than 15 percent. $ 10 billion over 10 years - money that could be reinvested to provide better care for patients and communities. "

Given the interconnections between climate and human health, and the disproportionate impact of climate change on low-income communities and communities of color, efforts to reduce the impact of health care on climate must be part of the commitment to health care. not to cause harm. One of the most effective ways to protect a patient's health is to ensure healthy communities for all.

The health sector can clean up its climate footprint while prioritizing the health, equity and resilience of the community. By eliminating your addiction to fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy, health care will not only stop contributing to the epidemic of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in our country, but will also support job creation in the clean energy sector.

As community marinas, American hospitals can use their purchasing power to improve the health of their communities. They can hire more local and minority-owned businesses for sustainable products, reducing their dependence on foreign suppliers and addressing chronic unemployment in the communities they serve. Health institutions can also leverage their food purchases to support more regional and sustainable agricultural practices, using healthy foods as medicine to reduce unprecedented levels of food insecurity, while helping prevent food-related illnesses such as diabetes, disease heart disease and obesity.

At a time when the country is experiencing multiple crises, we need health care to lead the way to a prosperous and sustainable society based on health, equity and community resilience. We also need the leadership of the national government. Congress now has a road map. There is no time to wait.

Covid-19 pandemic highlights differences in health care affordability

Despite emergency procedures for the uninsured, some patients in the United States run into trouble

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress established an emergency system to guarantee free testing of the virus and help uninsured Americans avoid large hospital bills for treating Covid-19. Most of the major insurers gave up cost-sharing agreements for Covid-19 patients at the same time. But with the many bills that come in, not all patients benefit from the system. The Wall Street Journal has identified four main groups who, depending on the status of their coverage, are experiencing the financial consequences of the infection in various ways.

The main concerns

1. The uninsured can cover some costs.

The uninsured can apply for financial assistance to cover Covid-19-related hospital bills under the Welfare Act, but paperwork can be a challenging task for many patients still suffering from the long-term effects of the disease. Out-of-hospital follow-up care may not be covered by the assistance program.

2. Some Medicare beneficiaries are exposed to high out-of-pocket costs

Tricia Newman of the Kaiser Family Foundation says the 6 million Americans who are covered by Medicare but do not have supplemental insurance plans to cover cost sharing, copayments and prescriptions are at risk of large expenses. Because Medicare has no out-of-pocket limits and hasn't waived 20% cost sharing for Covid-19 treatments, costs can sometimes increase. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not respond to requests for comment.

3. Low-income Medicaid holders are covered

Caitlin Donovan, senior director of the National Patient Advocacy Foundation, says that patients who have insurance through Medicaid, the state health insurance program for 72.5 million low-income Americans, should not have to pay anything for the Covid-19 treatment. However, many of these people lost their jobs. "For them, it's more of a public safety net," he says.

4. Private insurance holders are mostly covered

About two-thirds of Americans under 65 have private insurance through their employer. But they may need to charge copayments for additional treatments, such as visits to a specialist.