ANOTHER VIEW: Coronavirus shows need for health coverage

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

It shouldn’t take a possible pandemic for Congress to get serious about expanding health care for the uninsured. But with cases of the novel coronavirus increasing in the United States, some long-time opponents of the Affordable Care Act are now suddenly open to the idea of the government paying for the uninsured to get health coverage.

“You can look at it as socialized medicine,” U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, told HuffPost last week. “But in the face of an outbreak, a pandemic, what’s your options?”

The Affordable Care Act helped decrease the percentage of uninsured Americans to a historic low, but those gains are being reversed as the Trump administration has taken repeated steps to undermine the health care law. The administration is also supporting a lawsuit that would cause 20 million Americans who are covered under the law to lose their health insurance.

Yoho is among congressional Republicans who have long sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But the coronavirus outbreak has caused him and others with similar records to be more open to the idea of government-funded health care, at least when it comes to covering the costs of providing care to uninsured Americans who might have caught the coronavirus.

Yoho told HuffPost that paying for coronavirus testing and treatment would be a “wise thing” for the government to do, while insisting that he’s still “not OK with socialized medicine.

“Sometimes you have to do things that you have to do for your country, but as far as socialized medicine, no,” Yoho said. “Does this fall into that? Yeah, I guess you could throw it in there, but hopefully it’s not the long-term.”

Providing health care for the uninsured makes sense during a pandemic as well as over the long term. A number of studies have found that the Affordable Care Act has improved the health of Americans, including lowering mortality rates in states that expanded Medicaid coverage for lower-income residents under the law and benefiting their state budgets.

Florida is unfortunately one of just 14 states where lawmakers have rejected federal funding that would allow for the expansion to cover more of the uninsured. Our state consequently has an uninsured rate hovering around 13%, as compared to a national average of about 9%.

An estimated 2.7 million Floridians lack health insurance — putting others in the state, particularly its large elderly population, at risk if the uninsured don’t even have access to tests showing whether they have contracted the coronavirus much less treatment. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that the Trump administration would find funding to help states get reimbursed for testing, while U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has called for money to pay for coronavirus tests for anyone experiencing symptoms.

Like Yoho, both DeSantis and Scott have been vocal opponents of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. It’s time that they and other Republicans who have derided such measures as “socialized medicine” get serious about expanding health care for the uninsured during the coronavirus outbreak and long afterward.

By The Gainesville Sun editorial board