by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When the eventual COVID-19 post-mortem is conducted, the big culprit in the economic mayhem unleashed upon Americans is going to be the health-care industry, specifically hospitals.
When my wife and I attended a socially distanced evening happy hour at a neighbor’s home, the conversation turned quickly to COVID-19. I criticized our county’s heavy-handed response to the epidemic, and the hospital executive in the group solemnly intoned, “The shutdown saved the health-care industry … we could not care for large numbers of people all at once.” This person also went on to define a COVID-19 case as “any person who tests positive.”
A person who tests positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic is no more a “case” than any one of the 80 million American adults harboring latent (frequently harmless) human papillomavirus constitutes a case of a sexually transmitted disease. But this executive knew his script by heart, and spoke his lines earnestly. On the walk home, my wife posited that hospitals owed their communities a financial debt because of how much everyone sacrificed to protect them from their lack of readiness for a pandemic that their own leaders have talked about for more than 20 years.
Indeed, the COVID-19 economic cataclysm has disproportionately affected hourly workers, small business owners, and low-skilled workers who cannot plug in, turn on, and Zoom in from home. If the Fed is right and the downturn erased 6.5 percent from the gross domestic product, then Americans — particularly people who cannot afford it — have sacrificed their jobs, their businesses, and even their life savings for a trillion-dollar industry that wastes 30 cents of every dollar it receives. …
… Thanks to President Obama, the hospital industry has never been richer. The profit margin at American acute care hospitals is 8 percent. …