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May 1, 2020

Destroy Healthcare to Save It?

Hospitals and other healthcare providers have become collateral damage in the pandemic.

Weeks ago, medical experts and politicians warned that our hospitals would be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. Cities and states across the country turned convention centers and other venues into makeshift hospitals, while the hospitals themselves banned “elective” surgeries in order to prepare for the overflow.

What happened?

Many hospitals are now empty and have been forced to lay off workers. The 500-bed U.S. Navy ship Comfort that New York City so desperately needed is about to head out to sea, never having been nearly so needed as anticipated. Field hospitals erected at great cost are closing without ever having treated a patient. As The Daily Wire reports, that’s because “forecasts [in New York City, for example,] predicted that 110,000 beds would be necessary. At the height of the outbreak, 18,825 beds, less than 20% of the predicted number, were needed.”

Don’t get us wrong: We’re glad that our hospitals were never pushed to the brink except for some “hot spots.” But these same facilities now face a crisis that may have been even worse than the virus. As President Donald Trump repeatedly states, “The cure can’t be worse than the problem itself.”

Well, it just might be. But our government’s intentions were good.

“One reason that we didn’t want hospitals to get overrun by COVID-19 patients is that we’d crowd out everyone else needing care,” National Review editor Rich Lowry writes, “but we’ve ended up crowding out many people needing care as a deliberate choice — even where COVID-19 surges haven’t happened and probably never will.”

Many patients unable to get care have serious health problems, even though their surgeries may be classified as elective. The low number of COVID patients combined with the outright ban on diagnostic testing and procedures was a devastating one-two punch.

As a result, Lowry adds, “West Tennessee Healthcare, based in Jackson, lost $18 million in March after the state prohibited elective surgeries, and furloughed 1,100 out of a 7,000-person staff, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Summit Healthcare in Arizona expects as much as a 50% drop in revenue after the state’s ban on elective surgeries. Philadelphia-based Tower Health, also dealing with a 50% drop in revenue, furloughed 1,000 employees out of 14,000.”

This is just a sampling of the ever-growing list of healthcare providers being forced to cut staff to stave off economic disaster. Sure, the CARES Act provided $100 billion in relief, but it’s not enough.

How bad has it gotten for the industry as a whole? As MarketWatch reports, “Spending on healthcare by consumers declined at an estimated annual rate of $110 billion in the first quarter of the year, knocking 2.3 percentage points off gross domestic product,” accounting for nearly half of the nation’s 4.8% drop in first-quarter GDP.

So now that we’ve “flattened the curve,” and more states every week are expected to gradually open up for business, how do we help the healthcare industry recover?

One medical doctor has developed a five-point plan that includes protecting doctors from frivolous lawsuits, providing interest-free loans to doctors with small practices, eliminating the bureaucracy in medicine that’s become so problematic during the coronavirus crisis, expanding telemedicine, and creating more competition in the healthcare industry.

Let’s hope others in the medical field will step forward with more solutions.

Otherwise, the Left is waiting in the wings to implement socialized medicine. None other than Hillary Clinton stated in a livestream exchange with presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden that this would be a “terrible crisis to waste.” Clinton’s solution? You guessed it: universal healthcare.

Unfortunately, Democrats can’t ever solve anything without granting themselves more power. Overzealous governors responded to flawed model predictions by shutting down their states without giving a second’s thought to the economic consequences. And now Democrats want more government control?

Veteran journalist Brit Hume gets it right when he says these mandated shutdowns failed to consider that coronavirus “overwhelmingly affects elderly people and those with serious underlying medical conditions.” He adds the shutdowns have caused serious “collateral damage” to “hospitals all across the country.”

Moving forward, perhaps our collective distrust of government has grown stronger, and perhaps we’ve developed antibodies to ward off the ills of do-good bureaucracies and top-down edicts. As it turns out, an innovative, efficient, free-market healthcare system is the best way to deal with a challenge like COVID-19.

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