The coronavirus is revealing in stark ways whom our healthcare system is protecting and whom it is not.
As one might expect, all roads lead to money. Who is able to stay at home, away from contaminated places, people or things? Who is left to work on the frontlines, including those individuals serving in grocery stores, gas stations, clinics and restaurants?
Most white individuals have been able to achieve an affluent lifestyle. As a result, they can afford to stay home for several months largely unscathed, because most of them can work remotely.
Throughout our country’s history, people of color have always done the jobs most whites have refused to do. People of color and other immigrants do not take jobs away from white people; rather, they fill the void created when these essential jobs go unfilled.
Black individuals are 3.6 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than a white person, and Latinx individuals are 3.2 times more likely to die of the virus. This is not due, as many have alleged, to the “unsafe” practices of these disenfranchised groups, but because these individuals are mostly not afforded the same financial security.
Middle-class white individuals are more likely to be ordering groceries for no-contact delivery, while people of color are the ones doing the delivering. Middle-class white individuals have used their time at home to find a new hobby, while many people of color are fighting against eviction. Most are working low-paying jobs and they find it difficult to support an entire family, often a multi-generational one.
The lack of affordable health insurance is the primary reason why people of color have higher mortality rates than white individuals. Individuals who are not insured have less access to preventative care, meaning that they are likely to have underlying conditions, which, in turn, makes it more difficult to qualify for any affordable health insurance. Because of this, these individuals only seek medical attention when they are extremely sick for fear of having to pay upwards of $70,000 out of pocket for a hospital visit.
The injustices that have been exposed in the healthcare system do not stop there. Although clinics offer free COVID-19 testing, the fine print shows us that this only applies to individuals who have insurance that covers the cost of the test.
For uninsured individuals, the price of a virus test can range from $100-300. In addition to this high price, virus testing sites are also disproportionately located in white communities not Black or Latinx communities, forcing these individuals to travel farther and sacrifice their safety in order to obtain a test.
A CDC study found that children of color were as much as six times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus than white children. The vast majority of children have mild cases or are asymptomatic, but at least 100 of the nearly 190,000 coronavirus fatalities have been children. Of these 41 were Hispanic and 24 Black.
There is a children’s disease related to COVID-19 called multi-system inflammatory syndrome. Again Black and Hispanic children are infected at much higher rates than white children.
The racial disparity within our healthcare system disproportionately affects the lives of so many people of color. Our healthcare system is a for-profit system which makes money from those who are injured or ill, and makes more money from low-income individuals without insurance from medical visits or hospital stays.
Our healthcare system privileges Americans with the ability to afford health insurance over those who cannot. The lack of quality healthcare for the underprivileged has led to the death of thousands of people (by virus or otherwise) around the country at an unequal rate.
Olivia Corcoran studies communications with an emphasis on diversity/inclusion at DePaul University. She will continue her career in graduate school and further her understanding of these complex issues. She is currently working as an intern at Moscow’s Recovery Center. This column is part of a larger project by the Latah County Human Rights Task Force, which in lieu of its Human Rights Day at the Market, will soon appear as “Health Care as a Human Right” on its website at www.humanrightslatah.org.