Capitalist for-profit health industry no better prepared for ‘2nd wave’ of virus

By Brian Williams
November 16, 2020
Nurses protest for contract, safety, better care Sept. 18 at NY Albany Medical Center.
Militant/Ved DookhunNurses protest for contract, safety, better care Sept. 18 at NY Albany Medical Center.

A new surge of COVID-19, with increased hospitalizations and deaths, is once again hitting many cities, towns and rural areas in the U.S. and elsewhere worldwide. The U.S. capitalist rulers and their for-profit health care industry are no more prepared for this wave than they were last spring.

Hospitals are filling up, and officials in states run by Democrats and Republicans alike say they’re not ready. They blame working people for not being careful, and their only response is to shut things down, leaving us isolated and out of work.

Rather than pooling resources to prioritize coming up with an effective vaccine, the pharmaceutical companies, are hell-bent to outdo their rivals in the race to come out on top to secure government contracts and the huge profits that follow in the marketing of their product.

Some gains have been made in treatments, but they come with a high price tag. Immediately after being diagnosed with COVID-19, President Donald Trump was given the best care developed to date, a three-drug cocktail of a Regeneron antibody treatment , antiviral remdesivir, and steroid dexamethasone. But these drugs must be mass produced and made available to all who fall ill.

Hefty price for COVID-19 drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Oct. 22 approved Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir drug to treat the coronavirus. It comes at a hefty price — $3,120 for patients with private insurance. The company’s stock jumped over 4%. The drug is still in short supply.

“Since the pandemic began, the Socialist Workers Party has pointed to the need to fight for universal, government-guaranteed cradle-to-grave health care,” said Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president. “And our party together with other workers will continue to demand the most up-to-date care for all who fall ill.”

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 rose to over 46,000 nationwide by the end of October, about a 50% increase since the start of the month.

Among those hardest hit are working people living in rural areas where many hospitals were closed before the pandemic, when their owners decided they weren’t profitable enough. More than 120 shut down over the past 10 years.

U.S. authorities are fully aware that the 2020-21 flu season is beginning at the same time coronavirus is spiking. Last year was one of the worst flu seasons in decades — with up to 56 million cases and 62,000 deaths.

Lockdowns imposed by state and local governments last spring had a devastating long-term impact on the working class, as well as on farmers. Over 23 million workers are collecting state or federal unemployment benefits. But this doesn’t include millions more who aren’t eligible because they’re immigrant workers without papers or they work part time.

Many have exhausted their 26 to 39 weeks of benefits. Moratoriums on evictions are running out. Prices — especially of necessities like food — are rising.

Many big retailers have gone belly up,  throwing thousands of workers on the street. Government-enforced lockdowns have resulted in the permanent closure of 100,000 small businesses.

Decisions by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York and politicians elsewhere to warehouse COVID patients in nursing homes led to a rapid spread of the disease and deaths — some 40% of the total death count in the U.S.! — as if being “most vulnerable” meant being “most disposable.”

During the height of the pandemic, other vital medical treatments were suspended by many doctors and hospitals, including screenings for cancer, and providing children with basic vaccines.

“The for-profit health industry is a bonanza for the ruling capitalist families and a death trap for working people,” SWP presidential candidate Kennedy said. “Workers need to build a working-class movement of millions to fight to defend ourselves. Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to health care.”