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“You think twice whether to go to the doctor”: why coronavirus in the USA can quickly become a disaster

The spread of the outbreak of coronavirus can be especially rapid in the United States due to the specific national model of medical insurance and the high cost of self-paying medical services, as well as legions of workers who do not have paid sick leave, writes Yahoo.

Photo: Shutterstock

So far, COVID-19, the shortened name for the disease caused by the 2019 coronavirus, has caused at least 90 people worldwide and more than 000 deaths. Cases are reported by at least 3000 countries around the world, including the United States. As of March 60, two deaths from this viral infection have already been recorded in the United States.

To prevent an outbreak in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages sick people to stay home and seek medical help. But some experts fear that many Americans may ignore this advice simply because they cannot afford to lose money by skipping work or paying for a doctor’s appointment.

“The huge economic need to go to work”

The United States is one of two developed countries without guaranteed paid sick leave. According to the US Department of Labor, more than 1 in 4 private sector workers do not have this benefit, including more than half in the bottom 25% of the wage distribution.

“These are people who really live paycheck to paycheck,” said Amy Traub, deputy director for policy and research at think tank Demos. "So they have a huge economic need for work, even if they have flu or coronavirus symptoms."

To make matters worse, many workers who do not have access to paid sick leave work in childcare facilities, restaurants, hotels, and travel where they contact many people daily and can help spread the virus. According to the Department of Labor, in these occupations more than 2 out of 5 workers do not receive paid sick days.

“These are the people who serve [and] prepare food for all of us,” Traub said. "It's a route of infection where the people preparing your food cannot afford to stay at home during a contagious disease."

If these workers had paid sick leave, the level of infection could be reduced. A study by economists at the Swiss Institute of Economics and Cornell University found that overall influenza infections are reduced by 10% when workers in the United States get paid sick leave.

On the subject: Americans buy cleaning products in fear of coronavirus: will they help

“Think twice whether to go to the doctor”

Another outbreak prevention problem is the structure of the US health insurance system. According to the Census Bureau, about 7%, or 27,5 million adults in the United States did not have health insurance in 2018, which made visiting a doctor or emergency department expensive.

Even those with insurance may not seek medical attention if symptoms of coronavirus appear.

Two in three adults in the United States have private health care plans through an employer or special markets — these plans are heavily dependent on sharing patient costs with the insurer through deductibles, co-insurance, and copayments.

These cost-sharing mechanisms "are designed to make you think twice about going to the doctor when you have a cough or runny nose," said Dr. John Graves, assistant professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University. But "that's what worries us, and we want people to get tested and treated as needed."

On the subject: Coronavirus in the USA: first deaths, state of emergency, and more than 8000 patients in California

“Reduce needed help”

According to a Westhealt and Gallup poll in 2019, a quarter of Americans missed treatment because of the costs. In addition, 15 million Americans delayed the purchase of prescription drugs last year because of their cost.

According to the latest reports, a coronavirus testing bill could cost over $ 3000, which is a lot of money for many. According to the Federal Reserve, two out of five Americans could not cover a $ 400 emergency without borrowing money or selling things for cash.

Graves said the coronavirus situation is no easier for wealthier Americans, as most people this year have yet to pay a deductible on their insurance policy - the amount they must pay out of pocket for covered services before insurance goes into effect.

“They didn’t spend the money to the point where the plan began to cover their costs,” the doctor said. "There is a lot of compelling evidence that when faced with a franchise, people cut down on unnecessary costs, but also refuse the help they need."

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