The Lancet report is out today (11 February), which suggests that former President Trump’s policymaking created an excess of “461,100 deaths” – before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States
“Americans’ health was deteriorating even as our economy was booming,” says Dr Steffie Woolhandler, who co-chairs the Commission with Dr David U. Himmelstein, and who both serve as Distinguished Professors at the City University of New York at Hunter College and Lecturers in Medicine at Harvard.
“This unprecedented decoupling of health from national wealth signals that our society is sick. While the wealthy have thrived, most Americans have lost ground, both economically and medically. The Biden administration must reboot democracy and implement the progressive social and health policies needed to put the country on the road to better health.”
461,000 excess deaths registered annually
This is the first assessment of how former President Trump’s policy decisions impacted the health of the American population, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.
The Lancet Commission on Public Policy found a startling number in the data they assessed. It seems that over the course of the Trump administration, 461,000 excess deaths were registered every year. This number came before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research further found that 2.3 million were added to the 28 million US residents who were uninsured when he was sworn in, with the loss of coverage found mainly in minority communities and for children. The report suggests that because former President Trump allowed the flow of public funds to run through private insurers, Medicare costs went up by a rough $24 billion annually.
They made record profits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mortality gap between Black and white at 50%
The team also looked at how life expectancy was decreased by a complex criss-cross of policy decisions, especially for Indigenous people and Black Americans. The pandemic further pushed the mortality gap between Black and white, by a significant figure of 50%. In this same estimation, COVID-19 cut Latinx life expectancy by over 3.5 years.
Opioid related deaths have increased in 40 out of 50 states. This addiction disproportionately impacts middle-aged Black men, when it comes to fatalities.
Furthermore, it seems that environmental policies created a significant shift in deaths. In 2019 alone, environmental protections were cut and with them, 22,000 excess deaths were registered.
The presence of race in the data
When it comes to pollution and human health, communities that are vulnerable to heavily polluted neighbourhoods are often low-income and of colour. Separate to this study, Dr Elica M Moss explained her research on this situation to us, in an interview published here.
The impact can be seen across those who are low-income, but appears to specifically hit communities of colour.
The Lancet Commission went so far as to say that: “Trump exploited low- and middle-income white people’s anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilize racial animus and xenophobia; he then enlisted their support for policies that benefit wealthy individuals and corporations and threaten the health of most Americans, including Trump’s supporters.”
‘COVID-19 has taken its grim and unequal toll’
Dr Mary T. Bassett, Commission member and Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, commented: “The Commission highlights how racial disparities in health have grown in the last four years, especially as COVID-19 has taken its grim and unequal toll in Black, Latinx and Indigenous people.
“The disastrous, bungled response to the pandemic made clear how existing, longstanding racial inequities simply have not been addressed. It’s time to stop saying these preventable gaps cannot be eliminated. The report calls for structural solutions, including reparations, to ensure everyone has the right to health.”
“Our ICU is the last stop for many patients harmed by Trump’s disdain for facts, science, and compassion,” adds Commission member Dr Adam Gaffney, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School.
“But decades of health care inequality, privatization and profiteering set the stage for these tragedies. Our Commission has concluded that single payer, Medicare for All reform is the only way forward.”
Read the full report by The Lancet.