This week, in a back and forth with NPR’s Mara Liasson, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made a startling revelation. Here’s the verbatim on the exchange:
Liasson: There are still a lot of countries like Germany and the UK and South Korea that basically have massive testing free of charge or for a nominal fee. Why can’t that be done in the United States?
Psaki: I would say, first, we have eight tests that have been approved by the FDA here. We see that as the gold standard. Whether or not all those tests would meet that standard is a question for the scientists and medical experts, but I don’t suspect they would. Our objective is to increase accessibility and decrease costs. And if you look at what we’ve done over the course of time, we’ve quadrupled the size of our testing plan, we’ve cut the cost significantly over the past few months — and this effort to ensure insurers are able to get your tests funded means 150 million Americans will get free tests.
Liasson: That’s kind of complicated though. Why not just make them free and give them out and have them available everywhere?
Psaki: Should we just send one to every American?
Liasson: Maybe. I’m just asking you . . . there are other countries . . .
Psaki: Then what happens if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?
Liasson: All I know is that other countries seem to be making them available in greater quantities for less money.
Psaki: We share the same objective, which is to make them more accessible, right? Every country’s going to do that differently. . . .
So, the normally competent Psaki was caught in a tough question and stumbled, starting by lying about the efficacy of testing in other countries and then defaulting to an absolutely stupid response about cost. Mind you, the response wasn’t stupid because it was somehow inaccurate but because it was very very accurate.
The reason so many other countries provide testing of a pandemic for free — which is a completely logical thing to do — is that they have public health care systems. Cost is assumed by the government and prices are controlled. Your health is a right and a societal commitment because it benefits the entire country.
Our system is a profit-based system so that cost of all medication is not just a factor to be considered but a defining factor in the equation. That’s what Psaki revealed: “how much will that cost?” Gee, I don’t know, Jen. How much are millions of citizens’ lives worth? Why do we test? It’s not only because we’re concerned about the individual being tested, although that’s as important as anything can be. It’s that in a pandemic, each of us is a potential disaster — we can transmit this thing to a room of people by just being in that room for a few minutes. So it’s pretty important for each of us to know whether we have it and symptoms don’t tell us because Covid can infect people without showing symptoms.
If you frequent public environments daily, you should test yourself every day. The government should make that possible. It doesn’t and it won’t and Jen Psaki explained why.
The Biden plan is to make you buy tests from companies and then get that reimbursed through your health insurance. Ah ha!!! So…ten percent of adults don’t have insurance and most of them are poor — no tests there. The rest will have to file a claim and insurance companies reject about 15 percent of claims and only partially fill about half of them — how’s that? And those of us who are lucky, who pay all this money for health insurance, will get our payments back in a month or two if we’re lucky — great for a household on a tight budget like most people.
The dirty secret about this pandemic is that the United States is a big part of the problem. We don’t have everyone vaccinated and, while some of that is an outcome of propaganda by the Right, much of it is a question of access and convenience. In most developed countries, everyone is attached in some way to a care network; they know where to go when they get sick. In this country, some of us are; I, for example, know exactly where to go when I need care because I have a primary doctor and a bunch of specialists related to him. Many people in my neighborhood don’t have any such connection.
For the people in my neighborhood of Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, the primary is the hospital emergency room and they visit it only when they are really sick or have a bad accident. When something like Covid hits, they have no idea what to do and that’s exactly what happening in Sunset Park in 2020 when the bodies piled up in the trucks outside NYU Langone hospital and our neighborhoods many funeral parlors.
We were hit with a mass homicide and people were confused. Trump told them there was nothing to worry about and later, a bunch of Trumpers told them that the vaccine was “experimental” or “a fraud”. Did they believe that? Not really but it was a convenient excuse because finding a place to get the vaccine was almost impossible for many, many months.
Then, when it became more available, the propaganda had sunk in and they were reluctant. The vaccine advocates told them to “just consult your doctor” and that consultation, blessed by the authority of the care-giver, would turn into many more vaccinations. But there’s the rub.
You see, that wasn’t possible because many of them have no doctor! The non-care produced by a profit-driven system not only makes health less accessible but makes information less available. Doctors are this society’s primary source of information on health — if you don’t have one, you don’t have the information. In a profit-driven system, many of us don’t have one.
That’s the truth Jen Psaki let out of the bag.