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COVID-19: Crisis, Clarity, and Community

From President Marcia Stedman

The mission of Health Care for All-Washington has always been to make sure that everyone has health care. The current coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of government involvement in oversight and monitoring of public health. Government structures such as the Centers for Disease Control and the National Security Council’s pandemic response team are important supports for our public health care system. It’s clear what is needed, now, more than ever: coverage that gets people the care they need when they need it, without the fear of being judged not eligible for it or not being able to pay for it. This crisis shows us the urgency of bringing universal coverage to the fore.

Health Care for All-Washington is grateful for the prompt actions taken by our Governor and regional and local leaders to protect our residents and economy during this coronavirus emergency. We thank all the dedicated healthcare practitioners responding every day to this unprecedented public health care crisis. We are inspired by those in our communities organizing to help health care providers stay protected, providing for neighbors in need, and finding creative ways to keep our social ties while physically distancing. This spirit of the community good undergirds the drive to Universal Health Care and fuels the work of HCFA-WA.

Here’s something you can do for health care workers now.

In the face of a slow response from the Federal government, Washington’s state and county officials stepped up to make testing and treatment related to COVID-19 affordable to all. This is good public policy: getting people the care they need when they need it.

Thanks to legislation passed in Olympia this year, Washington is also lowering the cost of insulin and studying ways to lower the prices of other prescription drugs as well, in a further move to provide care to people when they need it, and at more affordable prices.

In the coming days and weeks, we can look for inspiration to countries that have a health insurance system which allows them to see patterns of illness and quickly meet the challenge of emerging threats to public health such as coronavirus. Taiwan is an example of a country that was able to contain the epidemic by providing the care people needed when they needed it.

‘Taiwan leveraged its national health insurance database and integrated it with its immigration and customs database to begin the creation of big data for analytics; it generated real-time alerts during a clinical visit based on travel history and clinical symptoms to aid case identification.’ - Response to COVID-19 in Taiwan, JAMA

This is the kind of health care that Washingtonians deserve. Care that is integrated with well-resourced and coordinated state and federal public health agencies is a vital tool in the fight against pandemics. We know the best way to protect each other is to ensure that everyone receives the health care they need. In fact, in the 2019 Legislative Session, the Legislature established the Universal Health Care Work Group to study how we can best ensure the timely delivery of health care to all of our state’s residents.

We look forward to their report later this year, when they will also recommend a financing system that will make it a reality.

Bottom line: it’s clear that the best way to protect each other is to ensure that everyone has health care when they need it.

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