Confusion over classes

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Since they hadn’t been told otherwise, area school superintendents were planning to resume classes in two or three weeks. On Sunday, President Trump declared that we should continue to follow social distancing guidelines until April 30 — after previously insisting all last week that we should be open for business by Easter. It is left to Gov. Kim Reynolds to decide when schools will reopen. She did not say on Sunday.

As this is written, we assume that students will not be recalled for at least a month. And that “non-essential” businesses will remain closed. And that vulnerable people will stay at home for certain, and less vulnerable people will play the six-foot rule with hand-washing.

We are playing by 50 sets of rules across America. That allows for flexibility to local situations, and it also creations confusion and chaos.

In Iowa, the state epidemiologist on Sunday estimated that the COVID-19 virus could peak in two to three weeks. That suggests that there will be a strong presence of active cases in the state well into May, if not June. Which means that the school year is probably done.

Buena Vista University has gone online to close out the year. It can do that. Some Iowa school districts will ask the state’s permission to offer credit for certain online classes. Storm Lake, for one, has opted against certified online instruction primarily because of access concerns among poorer families.

All schools are trying to help students in the meantime with take-home materials, assisting with securing laptops, and even teachers staying in email and phone contact with students. It is all to their credit.

The state has been surveying school abilities to offer daycare services, which is another indicator that the school bell is not set to ring. Many school administrators, again, are confused by the lack of state guidance and information.

The public deserves some general notion of how state government intends to proceed over the coming weeks and months. The governor needs to explain how we will move forward within the guidance of the federal task force. That will help schools, businesses and medical providers plan more effectively and communicate more clearly.

We need health care change

If ever we needed universal health care, it’s now. Millions of people last week signed up for unemployment benefits, 41,000 of them in Iowa. They will have to pay expensive health insurance premiums from those jobless benefits, and many will be forced over the next few months onto Medicaid. Not all private health insurance plans will forgive deductibles or co-pays during this pandemic, which could bankrupt many families.

The private health insurance market was not working well before the virus hit. Medical expenses have been the leading cause of personal bankruptcies for years. Our health insurance premiums have increased 24% each of the past two years — and that is with a $5,000 deductible. The county’s health insurance rates are going up 16%. These rate increases certainly are not sustainable for most small businesses.

That’s why a majority of Americans favor universal health coverage — that everyone gets health care no premiums, deductibles or co-pays. Polling last month by the Kaiser Foundation found a majority of Americans, 51%, favor such a program, while 43% are opposed. Democrats and independents strongly favor it. Support goes up when you call it something other than Medicare for All or socialized medicine. Support reaches 77% for universal health coverage as a right. Support has steadily risen over the years, and reached majority status in 2016. 

Iowa needs it even more than most places. Our rural health systems are falling apart under starved Medicaid programs that would be much strengthened by universal coverage. People who avoid doctors would start seeing one if they could afford it. That person with a cough and sore throat can’t swing the co-pay for the clinic visit so they report to work on the line. We can provide everyone with high-quality health care, preserve private insurance for those who want it, and save money for working families if we act now. This crisis makes clear why we must.

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