Will Anyone on His Staff be Brave Enough to Tell Him?
On Friday, April 3, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, announced that the federal government would pick up the tab for testing and treating all uninsured Americans for Covid-19 (at approximately $37,000 per patient).
My first question is, How can the government legally justify paying for Covid-19 treatment without also having to pay for SARS, flu, tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes or any other life-threatening disease? The fact is, the government can’t legally justify it — any more than it could justify waiving income tax payments for citizens of Texas and Arizona but not of any other state, or excuse people taller than 5’-10” from paying speeding tickets. Such discrimination would violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
So my second question is, Why haven’t our deaf, dumb and blind media pointed this out – and then connected the dots. The dots, in this case, being that the government has just adopted a de facto implementation of Medicare-For-All. True, it only applies to Covid-19, and even that was merely the result of a grudging political calculation made under pressure of public panic (and fierce anger at elected officials and the economic elite).
But agreeing to pay for Covid-19 is the camel’s nose under the tent. The rest of the dromedary will inevitably follow as soon as it becomes clear that (a) either payment for all diseases must now legally be covered by the federal government, or (b) the government will have to stop covering treatment for Covid-19 – which it will not dare to do for fear of electoral reprisal or (if this were France) a full-out revolution.
Which means that we should expect the dumb-but-ever-cunning Trump to eventually co-opt the issue of healthcare, since it was among the top issues of concern to 74% of voters in the 2016 campaign, and is “extremely important” to 81% of voters in the 2020 campaign. Trump will likely do this in a surprise TV appearance shortly before election day, during which he will announce his historic Trump Care Health Plan, which he will clam is better than Obamacare.
And he will be right. Trump Care will indeed be better than Obamacare, because it will include all the features of Bernie’s healthcare plan, which 70% of the American public is in favor of. Of course, Trump will deny that his health plan is anything like Bernie’s; he might even say that Bernie stole the idea from him. Many will believe him.
Trump Care would also promise to let people keep their present health insurance, which many voters want to do. This would ensure yet another 14% of public acceptance for his plan. And just for the hell of it (as long as he’s on a roll), Trump would also promise that his health plan would not raise taxes – he would make China pay for it, or North Korea, or Yemen. But it won’t matter what Trump promises, because by the time November arrives, and after witnessing the death of two million Americans, our sick, unemployed, and impoverished public will want to believe Trump’s promises. Consequently, they will re-elect him in a heartbeat, probably crushing Biden by the biggest percentage of votes since Lyndon Johnson crushed Barry Goldwater in 1964.
But would Trump’s backers – let alone the Republican Party – allow Trump to make such promises? The answer is yes, since he would assure them in advance that the promises would be forgotten after November 3. (Nothing new for Trump.)
Even if, at the Democratic convention, Biden were dumped in favor of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Bernie being out of the question, unless he has the equivalent of a Cross of Gold speech up his sleeve), Cuomo is no friendlier to single-payer healthcare than Biden, who already lost the 70% of the electorate in favor of single-payer by declaring, on national TV, that he would veto Medicare-For-All even if Congress passed it.
So drafting Cuomo would be a poison pill. Not only has he kept single-payer healthcare from becoming a reality in New York, he is also about to slash $2.5 billion from state-funded Medicaid programs. That includes cutting $400 million from state hospital budgets that could be used to purchase the vitally needed beds, ventilators, hazmat suits and N95 masks whose tragic lack he daily bemoans with crocodile tears during his prime-time TV therapy sessions, which are now simulcast live over all four networks, and avidly devoured by besotted female viewers who flood his mailbox with love letters. (Rebecca Fishbein recently wrote an article for Jezebel titled, “Help I Think I’m In Love With Andrew Cuomo.”)
However, because drafting an anti-single-payer candidate like Cuomo — in the midst of America’s worst public health crisis in 100 years — would be such an incredibly stupid strategy, the Democrats are almost certain to embrace it. So get used to the idea of Trump for another four years.
Unless he once again decides to shake hands with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and … dare I even think it?