The BA.2 variant of Covid caused another surge in Europe with over 250,000 cases and 249 deaths in just one day in Germany alone (April 1, 2022). As of April 4, 2022, cases were soaring to unprecedented levels in the United Kingdom and more than 19,000 cases were reported in China. Yet the U.S. is acting like the pandemic has ended, shutting down testing sites and cutting funding. This while Covid infections in Los Angeles County have risen 40% in the last two weeks as of this writing, and BA.2 represents 72% of new cases throughout the U.S. The BA.2 variant is more contagious than the omicron variant, but we are no longer wearing masks or social distancing. In addition, the current federal budget proposal calls for over $780 billion in military spending but recently cut out all spending for pandemic relief. To be fair, the president wanted to include approximately $22 billion in continued Covid response funds but the Republicans, in the interest of “fiscal responsibility,” refused to vote for it. As a result, a federal program that reimburses health care providers for vaccinating, testing, and treating uninsured patients ended April 5. The federal government also says that it has exhausted funds to buy a fourth dose of vaccine for all.
Before Covid-19, the American healthcare system was already in total disarray under the weight of capitalism. Medical internship programs for x-ray technicians and clinical laboratory scientists were closing down because hospitals are now led by Masters in Business Administration instead of doctors. Training staff costs money. Hospital renovations have been reducing the number of beds to give them a more so-called “modern” look. The reduction also insures that the beds they have are always full (an empty bed doesn’t provide revenue).
With the end of funding, as this new variant arrives, and with whichever variants follow, there will be no newly trained healthcare professionals, yet they are grossly needed, as hospital workers are brutally overworked and suffering from burnout. More people will hesitate to go to the hospital because they can’t afford it. Since free, mass testing will not be available, people will go to work sick, spreading the virus even more quickly than Omicron. People will have to pay out of pocket for Covid testing and many more people will just avoid getting tested. Vaccination will also come with a charge and people won’t be able to afford further vaccine boosters even if they are warranted.
The economic system we have is like a shark tank, and we are the prey. After two years of pandemic, the healthcare system is in full-on collapse. Part of the relief money was scooped up by fraud and stolen by opportunists. The pandemic certainly provided more opportunity. Fraudulent testing sites popped up. One company, O’Hare Clinical Lab, sucked up over $187 million in relief funds. They used untrained personnel and provided inaccurate test results. Money was thrown away on the three favored corporations (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson) instead of using the money to provide more non-profit research for a pan-vaccine that might prevent the spread of other Covid-19 variants.
There is no room for planning beyond the next quarterly earnings report in a capitalist system. Healthcare under capitalism is only another avenue to make profit. We need real healthcare, not wealthcare!