Unnecessary Coronavirus Deaths; Insurers Face Lawsuits, Congressional Inquiries; Black Americans Twice as Likely to Die from Coronavirus

Public Citizen Has You Covered

Welcome to this week’s edition of “We’ve Got You Covered,” a weekly tipsheet designed to highlight key news about Medicare for All and call out the biggest health care industry lies and falsehoods about universal health care. Please send tips, feedback and questions to Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.

LAID OFF AND UNINSURED: AN UNNECESSARY COVID-19 DEATH

An uninsured 55-year-old Florida man who was laid off amid the coronavirus pandemic is dead after contracting the disease, leaving his grieving family in massive debt.

German Amaya, like millions of Americans, lost his insurance when he was laid off. Amaya was a unionized worker and should have been able to keep his health benefits, his union said, but his employer, the hotel Fontainebleau, eliminated health benefits for their laid off workers.

Sadly, Amaya’s story is not unique, as countless Americans sick with the coronavirus, disproportionately minority populations, are turned away from providers or left with massive medical debt due to their lack of insurance.

“Millions of Americans are facing the life-threatening consequences of a health care system that puts corporate profit above human lives,” said Eagan Kemp, Public Citizen health care policy advocate. “The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated already dire circumstances for far too many.”

INSURERS FACE LAWSUITS, CONGRESSIONAL PROBES

As many Americans face financial hardship or forgo coronavirus treatment due to cost concerns, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating private health insurers after many insurers doubled their profits in Q2 2020 despite an ongoing pandemic.

“I’m deeply concerned by reports that many insurers are denying coverage for COVID-19 tests while sitting on large cash reserves,” said the committee’s chairman, U.S Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.)

At the same time, two insurers this month have been accused of improper billing practices, potentially costing providers and patients millions. A lawsuit by a New Jersey provider claims Cigna failed to pay $400,000 for coronavirus-related care, potentially in violation of the CARES Act. And, a newly unsealed whistleblower lawsuit reveals allegations that Molina overbilled multiple local, state and federal agencies for children’s behavioral services by $20 million.

Between surprise patient bills, record-setting profit margins and unnecessary lawsuits, it is long past time to completely take middle-men insurers out of the health system equation.

REPORT: BLACK AMERICANS TWICE AS LIKELY TO DIE FROM COVID-19

A new report from the National Urban League has found that Black Americans are three times more likely to become infected with the coronavirus than whites, and twice as likely to die, further exposing racial inequalities in the U.S. health care system.

“The American healthcare system is expensive, inefficient, and plagued by racial inequities,” Dr. Jessica Schorr Saxe, a retired family physician in Charlotte, N.C., said in an op-ed in the Charlotte Post. Saxe noted how Black Americans have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic as they are more likely to be uninsured, have underlying medical conditions and be essential workers without the ability to work from home.

“These conditions are not due to genetics, but to racism, indirectly through its effects on education, economic security, housing, and exposure to air pollution; and directly through the stress of racism itself,” she added. “Just as Medicare led to hospital integration in 1966, Medicare for All can be a major step toward eliminating racism and racial inequities. With everyone in the same system, everyone would be eligible for high-quality care.”

PUBLIC CITIZEN’S ADVOCACY AND RESOLUTIONS

Public Citizen has advocated for single-payer health care since our founding in 1971 and has worked for decades to end profiteering and waste in health care – whether from insurers, Big Pharma or hospitals.

Public Citizen is dedicated to building the grassroots movement we will need to win Medicare for All. Along with our 500,000 members and allies, Public Citizen works with local elected officials in cities, counties and towns from coast to coast to pass resolutions – most recently in Maplewood Township, N.J. – supporting Medicare for All and send a powerful signal to Congress that health care is a human right.

To speak with a Medicare for All policy expert, or if you have questions about Public Citizen’s work, please contact Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.