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The impact that coronavirus has had on individuals and the healthcare industry’s impact is substantial, extending far beyond the acute health problems associated with the disease we can see immediately and the health problems that those who come down with the illness may see in the future. The existence of COVID-19 alone has resulted in healthcare crises across the United States, pointing out flaws and shortcomings in the healthcare system which need to be addressed in order to appropriately handle future epidemics adequately and better serve Americans’ basic healthcare needs. How, exactly, has this pandemic affected our healthcare system?

For starters, insurance coverage has been a major issue. With the coronavirus pandemic, health insurance coverage has been significantly undermined across the United States; this was only worsened with the surge of unemployment causing millions of Americans to lose their insurance entirely. Though some Americans still have access to employer coverage or are eligible for Medicaid, many more are and could continue to remain uninsured until this pandemic passes. Even those still employed might get dropped from their employer’s insurance as companies cut costs to curb financial strains. 

Hospitals and office practices face a direct threat due to the pandemic in the form of severe financial strain.. Those who were already financially struggling prior to the pandemic—especially those in rural areas—have been hit extra hard due to the unexpected changes and increased demand for healthcare. The pandemic overall has overtaxed some hospitals and brought about unexpected costs due to the surge of patients, and the need for social distancing and other safety precautions have cut the number of patients a hospital or practice can see, causing them to lose income. 

Despite the negative effects this pandemic has caused on individual lives as well as the industry that aims to help them, understanding the shortcomings and limitations in our healthcare system with respect to pandemics provides us an opportunity to improve and evolve for future catastrophes. The opportunity for federal policy reform opens up. The role of federal employees—and their absence—is vital in how our healthcare system operates. With roughly 423,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States at the time of this writing, it’s clear that there needs to be policy reform at the federal level if there’s to be any hope of stopping this pandemic. 

COVID-19 will likely not be the last pandemic we see, so it’s crucial that we get both the healthcare system and the economy as prepared as humanly possible for what we may face next time. If the United States is to protect the public’s health, it needs to take action at state and local levels to start basic disease-control measures for testing, contact tracing, and isolation for the affected population. 

As hard as the coronavirus pandemic has been, we as a people need to take it for what it is and learn from this experience so that a future pandemic doesn’t get to the scale that COVID-19 has. This virus has impacted not just the United States, but the entire world. It is our responsibility to learn from our mistakes in order to prevent or better prepare for similar occurrences of this magnitude for future generations to come.