As European countries nationalize their healthcare systems in the wake of the coronavirus, similar calls to do so with hospitals in the states.

US politicians call for nationalization of healthcare system in response to pandemic

March 30, 2020
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
Decisions in Ireland and Spain to nationalize their hospital systems during the course of the coronavirus pandemic has led to similar calls from left-leaning politicians for the U.S. government to do the same here.

The Spanish government brought all private hospitals under public control earlier this month, a week after declaring a state of national emergency due to the outbreak, according to Business Insider. The virus has since infected over 64,000 and claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 Spaniards.

Ireland, which has seen 2,000 infected and 22 dead from the virus, followed suit this past week with its own order to nationalize all hospitals in the country, reported Irish news outlet The Journal..

“We must, of course, have equality of treatment, patients with this virus will be treated for free, and they’ll be treated as part of a single, national hospital service,” Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris said in a press conference. “For the duration of this crisis the state will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people. There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic.”

The nationalization of hospitals is meant to increase access to care for COVID-19 patients (as well as non-COVID-19 patients) and to break up the volume of patients among hospitals, enabling providers to avoid running out of supplies and equipment faster.

The decision by both to pursue this policy has made waves across the Atlantic, with similar calls to nationalize U.S. hospitals and other healthcare related matters.

“Here is maybe a radical idea to deal with some of the pressures our healthcare system is facing: All private hospitals should be made public for the duration of the virus,” U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D.-MN) tweeted Tuesday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also called for the federal government to nationalize the purchase of medical equipment, such as masks, gowns and ventilators arguing that shortages have led to hikes in prices for supplies, due to states competing against one another, reported CNBC.

Masks, he says, that were once 85 cents are now $7, “because I’m competing against other states. Currently when states are doing it, we are competing against other states. In some cases, we’re savaging other states. This is just an impossible situation to manage, if we don’t get the equipment, we could lose lives that we could otherwise save if we had the equipment.”

President Donald J. Trump has resisted calls for nationalization, saying that voluntary help from manufacturers is proving effective. “We’re a country not based on nationalizing business,” he said, according to Barrons.

The prospect of nationalization is also gaining traction in other European countries, reports Reuters, with Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire considering it as a way to support big companies affected financially by the crisis.

“I won’t hesitate to use all means available to protect big French companies,” said Le Maire. “That can be done by recapitalization, that can be done by taking a stake, I can even use the term nationalization if necessary.” He made no mention of nationalizing hospitals.