Congress must act to strengthen health care in face of disaster
President Donald Trump has been accused of ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s actually much worse than that.
He and his administration are actively working to undermine the country’s response and the pillars of the health care system that are best positioned to respond to the crisis.
And viewers of his devoted propaganda network, Fox News, are more likely to believe misinformation about COVID-19 and therefore be at greater risk of contracting and spreading the disease that has claimed more than 125,000 US lives, including more than 100 in Maine.
During a public health emergency, the first response should be to provide facts to the public and to build up your health care resources and increase access to care.
This president is moving in the opposite direction. You simply can’t believe a word that he says when it comes to coronavirus and the danger it poses.
The president has promoted miraculous cures that don’t actually work — and may be dangerous -– he’s conflated increased testing with an increase in the spread of coronavirus and he’s refused to wear or promote the wearing of face masks even though it’s an effective way to slow the spread of the disease.
The administration’s ham-handed response to the current crisis has left much of the economy reeling and caused unnecessary deaths.
Even as the country faces an unprecedented health care crisis, the president is working to undermine the Affordable Care Act, which protects people with pre-existing conditions, such as COVID-19 and the damage it causes, from losing access to health insurance.
The attack on the Affordable Care Act is a public policy and political calamity, and Republicans this fall could pay a steep price for the president’s determination to take health care away from millions.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of governors is asking the federal government to move in the opposite direction and provide increased funding for Medicaid, the state and federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans.
The program was designed to counter situations like we have today.
When a health emergency hits the country, Medicaid is there as a lifeline, providing care for people who need it, including more than 300,000 Mainers. It can also be an economic lifeline for states that are facing incredible revenue declines.
By increasing its share of funding for Medicaid, the federal government can accomplish three critical goals in one administratively simple step. It can ensure access to health care for millions of people, support state and local governments, and safeguard health care providers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The president has laid a dangerous health care trap for Republicans. His commitment to erasing health care for millions of people and his continued assault on the truth would require voters to close their eyes to a pandemic that’s raging barely restrained in much of the country.
Members of Congress have an opportunity to both do the right thing by enacting smart public policy and do the smart thing politically by protecting access to health care.
As tens of thousands of Maine people have lost their jobs and a decline in visits have put health care providers -– hospitals, doctors, mental health providers -– on the financial edge, Medicaid has become an even more important lynchpin in stabilizing public health and the economy.
At a time when the president is content to say up is down, other political leaders must step up and ensure that the impact of COVID-19 isn’t unnecessarily magnified.
Expanding support for Medicaid is one way to make a real difference in communities and in the lives of people.
David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.