How Joe Biden Could Grant Free Healthcare in this Pandemic, All Without a Single Vote

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

As the pandemic ravages both the economy and people’s livelihoods, it’s apparent that weak, or for some nonexistent, healthcare is not good. Healthcare is a necessity for many Americans; without it, many would go into insurmountable debt. Most of the developed world has a form of single-payer healthcare, in which the government supplies a basis on healthcare for all citizens, except the U.S. The U.S. healthcare system is mostly tied to your employment. So, when there is a mass of layoffs and unemployed people, their healthcare is no longer available. A recent report showed that 14.6 million Americans lost access to their health insurance due to losing their job. But, what if I said not all Americans exist within our current system of private insurance. What if I said this small town in middle America could set a precedent that could influence a different apparatus.

Let me introduce you to Libby, Montana: population, 2,628. Now this small-town shares something in common with most European countries, in which these select few Montanans have Medicare for All. Libby, a mining town, was exposed to asbestos from the W.R. Grace Company-owned mine in 2009, and the U.S. declared Libby a public health disaster. The people of Libby were, for years, exposed to toxic materials, through no fault of their own, and suffered severe consequences. It was so severe, that the U.S. government stepped in, and using the Affordable Care Act, codified Section 1881A of the Social Security Act. This act supplied every citizen of Libby, currently affected or not, free Medicare. The proposition stated that any individual subject to environmental exposure would therefore receive free healthcare as a way to mend the damage already done. Now, how does this pertain to today? How could a town of fewer than 3,000 people exposed to asbestos grant millions of Americans free healthcare?

Well, there is a new environmental hazard decimating this country, as many of you are well aware, one in which hundreds of thousands have died, with millions infected. The coronavirus has swept this country and exposed its utter weakness to any kind of public health emergency. Yet newly elected president Joe Biden could use this section, in place under the Affordable Care Act, to effectively grant single-payer healthcare to millions of Americans, and he wouldn’t need a single vote. This article goes into the real nitty-gritty of exactly how Joe Biden could do this, but simply put, through an executive order Joe Biden could create an addendum under Section 1881A to include COVID-19. Now, this isn’t saying that Joe Biden will, or is even likely, to do this. In the past, he has fought against free healthcare. But, he’s also recently expressed his desire for both the vaccine and treatment to the coronavirus to be free, and this move would effectively solve that. Joe Biden could step past the litigation hell that is congress, one vehemently against such an option; granting millions of Americans, who again, through no fault of their own, have lost their health insurance and been infected by a deadly disease.

If this is executed, and it’s still a big if, there is also nothing stopping Democrats from pursuing more addendums to include in Section 1881A. For Instance, the Flint water crisis could be one such disaster that could fall under the umbrella of environmental hazards. The former governor, Rick Snyder, was just charged with criminal negligence of duty from his switching of the Michigan cities’ water supply from Lake Erie to the Flint river in 2014. This cost-cutting measure resulted in the water being poisoned with lead. Thus exposing the citizens of Flint to dangerous amounts of lead and causing Legionnaires’ disease. Flint is not the only place in America exposed to polluted water supplies. There are many towns all across the U.S. that are in similar situations. Why not also grant them access to free healthcare? If the government failed to keep their health safe, the least they can do is cover the costs.

Free healthcare is not a controversial opinion. It may seem so if all you listen to is mainstream news, but a majority of Americans support the idea of a government-led, single-payer program. If Joe Biden wants to keep his promises true, then enacting this would be the easiest route. He doesn’t have to give every single American free healthcare, but granting it to those most affected by the coronavirus would be a great start. This pandemic has gutted the country and has been an embarrassment when compared to the rest of the world. Why not adopt some of those methods that the rest of the world employ? We are the wealthiest country in the world, so why not invest in a program that will save both the people and the government money and give access to something many deem as a human right.

(contributed by Sean Duffy, content writer intern with VotingSmarter)

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