BY SAVANNAH MARTINCIC STAFF WRITER
Donald Trump spent months downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19. He held large rallies, mocked face masks and scoffed at social distancing guidelines. He rested comfortably in his privilege while over seven million Americans grappled with the virus and over 215,000 died.
Even after Trump tested positive, he continued to ignore the immense privilege at play in this pandemic. “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” he tweeted. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge.”
But this sentiment simply doesn’t reflect the reality for many Americans across the country who lack the extensive healthcare that is at the president’s disposal. Characterizing Trump’s experience as representative of all Americans, therefore, creates a discriminatory narrative, one that ignores the privilege at play in this pandemic.
It’s probably easy to be unafraid of COVID-19 when you have the promise of top-notch treatment at a well-regarded hospital. Trump spent three days in a suite at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he was attended to by the very best doctors and received a variety of exclusive treatments, including an experimental antibody cocktail.
And how much did Trump have to pay for his stay and these exclusive treatments? Nothing. The costs of his care, including a helicopter ride to Walter Reed and multiple COVID-19 tests, are covered by the federal government.
For millions of Americans, this isn’t the case. For millions of Americans, COVID-19 does dominate every aspect of their lives. The New York Times reported that for the average American, the kind of care Trump received would cost more than $100,000.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, amid sweeping layoffs due to COVID-19, nearly 27 million Americans may have lost their employer-based health insurance. This is in addition to the millions of Americans who are already uninsured in large part thanks to Trump’s ramped-up attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
And while the Trump administration created a program this April that promised to cover COVID-19 treatment for people without insurance using money from the CARES Act passed by Congress, the program has failed to deliver on that promise for many uninsured Americans.
A 2020 study from FAIR Health, a claims database, estimates that nationally, the median charge for a COVID-19 hospitalization for a person without health insurance or who ends up getting out-of-network care ranges from $34,662 for patients aged 23-20 to $45,683 for patients aged 51-60. But these numbers vary greatly depending on the length of hospital stay, treatment needed and long-term health impacts of the virus. For those with health insurance, the cost would likely be covered by their plans only after they have paid their yearly deductible.
Even COVID-19 tests can come with a hefty price tag for the average American, since insurers are typically only required to cover the cost if a doctor orders a test – not an employer. In June, the Trump administration made that clear when it released guidance on the issue, stating that insurers do not have to pay for “testing conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety.”
Testing may be available for free at public sites or covered voluntarily by employers, but in some cases, the cost is left up to the individual. And for those who are uninsured, the cost of frequent COVID-19 tests can quickly add up. Delays in test results can also mean time off of work, which the president may be able to afford, but many essential workers cannot.
At the root of Trump’s privilege, though, is not just status or money, but whiteness. COVID-19 is tearing through black communities, claiming the lives of black people at twice the rate of white Americans. Indigenous and Hispanic people have also experienced higher death rates than the white majority.
According to a May 2020 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the racist practice of redlining affects health in these communities because the intersection of poverty and poor-quality housing leads to elevated exposure to stressors like air and water pollution. Compounded with systemic healthcare disparities, these stressors contribute greatly to increased rates of COVID-19 in black and brown communities.
Despite the tremendous impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable in the U.S., Trump continues to play down the pandemic, resting comfortably in his white privilege while thousands of Americans die. If it wasn’t clear in March, it should be clear now: Trump doesn’t care about your health, he cares about your vote. Think about that as you cast your vote this year.