The Trump administration hasn’t been able to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in part because it has weakened our public health infrastructure and put anti-science ideologues in charge of our health care system.
The new coronavirus is an international pandemic. But it’s been more than a month since the first case of what is now called COVID-19 was documented in the United States, and — maddeningly — our leaders still can’t give us widespread and affordable testing, so they still can’t tell us how many people are infected.
How could the government of the United States of America have such an unconscionably terrible response to a pandemic? There are many reasons, including these two important ones:
One, the response is led by Vice President Mike Pence — an extremist with no medical experience, who exacerbated a preventable HIV outbreak as governor of Indiana because he had “moral” objections to providing clean syringes and other measures to slow the spread of HIV.
And two, the Trump-Pence administration has restricted affordable health care coverage and access nationwide, targeting safety-net health care programs in particular. That puts lives and the whole economy at risk.
Without access to affordable coverage, those who are uninsured, have low incomes, or live in rural areas may have no way to cover additional health care costs — which can delay testing and treatment for the deadly virus. Sick people shouldn’t have to worry about going bankrupt to get lifesaving care.
Administration Continues to Weaken the Strained Health Care System, Undermining COVID-19 Response
The crucial context to this moment is that the government has been attacking health care access for years, and it’s not letting up. No, this administration is actually doubling down on dismantling the health care system, further endangering Americans.
Here are the harmful policies that the administration is pushing now. Read on for the mountain of harmful policies that these are based on.
Targeting the ACA
The administration’s lawyers are still in court trying to eradicate the ACA, and they don’t have answers for how they’d protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions in a post-ACA world.
Slashing Funds for Health Care
There is no fiscal reasoning that could justify stripping the nation’s lifesaving health care infrastructure when we need it the most. And yet, Trump just released his fiscal year 2021 budget, which proposes funding cuts for Health and Human Services (HHS) — including a 15% cut in CDC funding.
Squeezing Medicaid and More
Trump’s FY21 budget also proposes over $900 billion in cuts to Medicaid over 10 years. Despite the rising threat to the public’s health, top White House officials continue to defend those cuts.
Trump’s budget also would impose work requirements on food assistance programs, like SNAP, and other critical forms of public assistance. It begs the question: If people with low incomes who depend on these benefits contract the virus and can't work, could they lose their benefits?
Background: The Administration Was Already Weakening Our Health Care System Well Before the Pandemic
These attacks on the health care system do not exist in a vacuum. A strain in one area of the system has a domino effect that hurts the whole system. At a time when we’re facing multiple urgent public health crises — not just COVID but also the opioid epidemic and extremely high rates of STIs — we need a strong public health safety net, and not fewer trusted providers in our communities.
But here’s what the administration has been doing...
Disbanded the Global Pandemic Taskforce
After the White House’s top official in charge of response to a global pandemic left the administration, the White House did not fill the role (and still hasn’t). Instead, the administration disbanded the National Security Council’s entire global health security team.
Weakened the Affordable Care Act
After the Affordable Care Act expanded health care coverage to millions of people, the Trump-Pence administration repeatedly sabotaged it. The administration’s policies drastically reduced enrollment assistance, and let marketplaces offer skimpy coverage. It’s now much more difficult for people to get and keep health insurance.
The Trump administration put constraints on Medicaid that have kicked people off their coverage. Most prominently, these constraints include pushing for Medicaid work requirements, which have kicked tens of thousands of people off their health insurance. Women are more likely than men to lose Medicaid as a result of work requirements. Meanwhile, like-minded state politicians across the county have refused to expand Medicaid, leaving millions of people without needed health insurance.
Attacked Safety Net Providers
Defunding Planned Parenthood
The administration emboldened states to “defund” Planned Parenthood and block patients who use Medicaid from getting preventive care at its health centers. That came as many communities were already facing extreme health care provider shortages (and they still are). Planned Parenthood is often the only trusted provider in their communities. Community health centers and other providers cannot absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.
National Title X Gag Rule
The administration forced Planned Parenthood out of Title X, the only dedicated federal program for affordable birth control, through a dangerous gag rule. Planned Parenthood served 40% of the program’s 4 million patients before the gag rule forced Planned Parenthood out of the program.
Planned Parenthood is integral to the broader health care safety net, and its health centers are part of a system that works best when people are allowed to go to their provider of choice.
Take Action: Support the Fight for Health Care Access
The devastatingly inadequate response from the Trump administration. We’ve known for a while that COVID-19 could pose a threat to millions of people in the United States and that it’s spreading fast. Every day we’re learning more about the coronavirus pandemic, but one thing is already clear: Affordable and accessible health care is key to saving lives.
The good news is that Congress passed a coronavirus aid package, and that's thanks in large part to the many calls and messages made by constituents across the country. But the fight for health care access is far from over.
Help Us Fight for Health Care Access Nationwide in 2020
Your support helped push the Trump administration to finally face the facts of this pandemic. But the government is just starting to get people the care, information and financial relief they need. Help us keep the pressure on. Donate to Planned Parenthood Action Fund today.