As a geriatrician serving the most vulnerable population, I feel compelled to comment on the glaring deficiencies in our health care system that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light.

Our system does not have the capacity to respond to a public health crisis of this magnitude, in part because it never had to. At no time in this country’s history have we been adequately resourced to tend to even the basic health care needs of our entire population. It’s not that we lack the resources, but that we lack the political will.

Because we as a country have chosen to tolerate a for-profit health care system, health care organizations are suffering significant financial strain as patients are canceling routine visits and procedures or are being turned away because of symptoms of infection or a history of exposure to COVID-19. Under the current system, only in-person visits are reimbursed, with few exceptions. The loss of revenue resulting from the dramatic decline in face-to-face encounters poses serious, and, in some cases, existential challenges to the viability of many practices.

If we had a publicly funded health care system, this would be one less crisis to deal with. Of the many take-home points from this experience, shouldn’t one of them be that health care is a basic human right?

Karen Saylor, M.D., FACP

Falmouth


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