With tens of millions of votes already cast, and Election Day just six days away – as COVID-19 cases surge in nearly every state – the nation finds itself at a pivotal moment. The election of 2020 is shaping up to be arguably the most consequential to the future health of the American people and our nation’s health care system.
Never before in the history of US presidential elections have the simple acts of campaigning and voting become public health issues. Tragically, the pandemic has already resulted in a series of grim milestones: 8.8 million COVID-19 cases in the US; the highest seven-day average of daily new cases, recorded just last week; and more than a quarter-million lives lost and counting.
That’s not to mention the tens of millions more suffering from the COVID-19 recession and the estimated 14 million people losing their job-connected health insurance. By almost any metric, the pandemic’s human, physical, mental, and economic toll has been devastating.
As we enter the final days of this election, COVID-19, and the ability of everyone in the country to get the care they need amid the pandemic, is undoubtedly front and center on the minds of every voter.
At Stake: Health Care that Meets People’s Needs
At USofCare, our job is not to tell voters whom to vote for; it’s to educate them about the stakes and ensure that our national and state leaders prioritize addressing the needs of people. Our mission is to ensure that every person has access to quality, affordable health care regardless of health status, social need, or income. We seek to place people at the center of health care by redefining the issue in human, not political terms and supporting a positive, practical, and lasting approach. We also work with everyday people, caregivers, advocates, clinicians, policymakers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and community leaders to drive change.
In many ways, our mission has never felt more relevant than right now.
COVID-19 has magnified the longstanding problems in our health care system and heightened people’s awareness of its flaws as well as the urgency to improve it. Moreover, communities of color have disproportionately experienced the pandemic’s burden due to the systemic racism that exists throughout our country.
Since March, we’ve oriented our work around supporting the pandemic response. Specifically, the need for practical solutions that address both the immediate challenges of the crisis and long-term gaps in our health care systems laid bare by COVID-19 to ensure people can access affordable, high-quality care.
Thanks to the help and leadership of our Board of Directors, Founder’s Council, and other partners, USofCare has developed recommendations at every stage of this crisis to provide federal and state policymakers with the perspective to meet people’s needs. Working with USofCare Board Members Dr. Bill Frist and Dr. Rhonda Medows (who jointly published their call for COVID-19 to lead to action on health disparities) and others, we will continue advocating for policies that eradicate existing barriers and entrenched biases for long-term change.
Key to Humanizing the Health Care Debate: Communicating ‘Shared Needs’
We released our findings as a guide to help policymakers, advocates, and health care providers humanize the health care debate and COVID-19 response. As we evaluated the trends, data, and public opinion across communities, we found a series of shared needs consistently emerging in response to the pandemic, including the desire for:
- A reliable health care system fully resourced to support essential workers and available to people when needed, both now and after the pandemic;
- A health care system that cares for everyone, including vulnerable people and those already struggling before the pandemic hit;
- Accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe;
- An ability to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, especially as we are worried about the pandemic’s financial impact.
Across all our conversations, we found that people need to feel heard and know that the health care system supports them. They want a health care system that emerges stronger in the wake of the pandemic, more secure, and equitable where:
- People have the certainty they can afford their health care;
- People have the security and freedom that dependable health care coverage provides as life changes;
- People can get the personalized care they need, when they need it, and how they need it;
- People experience a health care system that’s understandable and easy to navigate.
Empowering Voters and Guiding Candidates
Finally, USofCare’s 2020 Voter Action Guide and 2020 Candidate Guide highlight challenges that individuals and families have grappled with during the pandemic. From our research, we know that it is not enough to get “through the crisis” and go back to the system we had before — which wasn’t meeting people’s needs. It’s why our guides offer key messages for candidates to consider and critical questions for voters to ask candidates before Election Day.
Let’s Get to Work
No matter who is elected in seats across the country, the leaders we choose will face the same challenge: How do we save as many lives as possible during the pandemic? At the same time, how do we bring people together to build a system that ensures all people have access to high-quality, affordable care?
By exercising their right to cast a ballot during this critical election, voters may well set the direction for health policy and decision-making for decades to come.