The biggest culprit in the economic mayhem behind COVID-19 is going to be the health-care industry, specifically hospitals. The shutdown has saved the health-care industry as they check off each case, whether it’s asymptomatic or just a person who has tested positive, as one of the 80 million American adults harboring this virus.
Hospitals owe their communities a financial debt because of how much everyone sacrificed to protect them from their lack of readiness for a pandemic. Their own leaders have even talked about these sorts of things happening for more than 20 years.
The COVID-19 chaos has affected hourly workers, small business owners, and low-skilled workers who can’t afford a laptop to plug into zoom from home. American families couldn’t afford to sacrifice their jobs, their businesses, and even their life savings for a trillion dollar industry that wastes 30 cents of every dollar.
Studies in JAMA have shown that roughly 20-25 of American health care spending is wasteful. The estimated waste is at least $760 billion per year, which is comparable to government spending on Medicare and exceeding the national military spending, as well as total primary and secondary education spending.
Hospital profits have increased by roughly 50% during the Obamacare years. The 8% margin exceeds profits for retail pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers, and widely vilified health plans. Hospitals have asked for more money for pandemic planning, but then invested in cash cows like palatial birthing suites, sports medicine, joint replacement centers, and disease management programs, to make up for heart and cancer care now done on a short-stay basis.
Half of the U.S hospitals are not-for-profit, while non-profits caring for uninsured patients in exchange for their tax exemption have not been proven to benefit communities at all. Despite all of these public benefits, hospitals have still protested that Medicare and Medicaid pay them too little, so then artificially jack up the prices and negotiate discounts with insurers. In reality, many hospitals have no idea what the true costs of care is. It’s been a quiet little scam that would make any salesman blush.
Still, the industry spends tens of millions on lobbying and its executives give more to Democrats than to Republicans. They look at their “best-case scenarios” for 2020 candidates and contribute best to their company’s financial interests. “One of the main lenses to look at political contributions is as investments. That often leads to big investors hedging their bets, which they often do,” said Grant Reeher, a professor of political science at Syracuse University.
Hospital and insurance executives have almost universally shunned President Donald Trump in favor of candidates pushing for a public insurance option. Universal Health Services CEO Alan Miller was the outlier though with a $25,000 donation to the Trump Victory Committee. Joint fundraising committees are created by multiple candidates to share the costs of fundraising and are able to write one large check. Health policy observers have said that Trump has made lowering drug prices a priority for his administration, though all leading Democratic candidates have endorsed allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a policy the drug industry despises.
This whole game with the hospital industry has been nothing but a political con. Industries are desperate to have Joe Biden win this year’s election to ensure a veritable IV drip of taxpayer money remains wide open. Studies are disclosing age, race, sex, and insurer for all patients hospitalized for COVID-19, as well as their length of stay and discharge status. This is all an adjusted political narrative for some media attention and to enforce the mythology that COVID-19 is the new Black Death.