Why the Outbreak is So Bad In the USA
History won’t look fondly upon this chapter in our history
The United States now has the most cases of the SARS Cov-2 virus of any nation on Earth and will very likely soon have the greatest number of deaths. So one has to wonder, why is the world’s “superpower,” the “richest” country on Earth, and a country that is less densely populated than Italy, China, or Korea,falling victim harder than anyone else? Most Americans wont want to hear the answers to these questions, but sometimes the answers to our questions require a look into the mirror.
The answers fall into two broad categories; a general hostility toward science and reason alongside a hopelessly fragmented healthcare system.
Hostility to Science and Reason
The US government and populace has been anti-science for quite some time. While the issue of climate change, for example, is accepted as a byproduct as human industrial activity by just about every other country on this planet, the United States stands alone in stubborn denial. The US is virtually alone, purposely downplaying the threat of climate change and actively obstructing efforts to resolve it.
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The US is unique among developed countries in other metrics as well. 40% of the population does not accept the scientific consensus of evolution, while an astonishing 77% believe in the existence of angels. Some 60% of Americans reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Said another way, the USA is home to ~180 million armchair climatologists whose out-sized self-confidence have deluded themselves into believing that they are more knowledgeable than the global science community spanning a century of research.
It should come as no surprise then, that the same country would also be filled with tens of millions of disease experts and virologists who downplayed the seriousness of the virus and lulled millions into a state of inaction until it was too late to reverse course.
It is the same same rejection of science and logic among politicians and the populace that is at play in climate denial as it is with the Covid-19 outbreak denial (and this denial continues). While healthy skepticism is a great personality attribute, Americans need to learn to accept scientific consensus as fact and stop falling victim to Dunning-Kruger.
Fragmented and Expensive Healthcare System
The key to defeating this virus can be summed up in one word: testing. Everyone must be tested, even those who are asymptomatic, so that the disease carriers can be effectively isolated and the disease contained. But the United States has lagged far behind the rest of the world in testing. Leaving aside government complacency (see above) there is another reason that testing lags.
The United States, unlike just about every other country on this planet, has a healthcare system that is both unusually expensive for patients and extremely fragmented. The USA has Medicaid, Medicare (with sub-parts A, B, C and D), the veterans health system, CHIP, COBRA, and somewhere in the ballpark of 900 private insurance companies that comprise the “healthcare system.” This is compounded by the that fact that health insurance is generally regulated and controlled at the state level, with each state determining its own set of coverages, regulations, licensure procedures….etc. There is no “healthcare system,” but rather 900+ subsystems….in each of the 50 states. Its confusing, ineffective, and expensive.
The failure of the United States government to streamline an incredibly complex “healthcare system” has allowed a massive, inefficient, and ineffective private/public bureaucracy to emerge that has made healthcare inconsistent across states, unequal within states, unfair to premium-payers, doesn’t provide coverage to millions, but somehow manages to be vastly more expensive per person than every other nation on the planet.
It is no wonder that the United States government failed to roll out testing kits on the scale that other countries have managed to do. With such a complex “system” where would you even start? Its also no wonder that many sick Americans are afraid to go to the doctor, lest they get charged a co-pay, their deductible, and coinsurance.
The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed gaping holes in the American social, political, and economic system. While we might be the world’s only superpower, if we intend to keep it that way, we ought to take a hard look in the mirror and finally recognize these shortcomings. It will have been a long time coming.