Universal health care is in the interest of homeland security

by Nicholas Theis, University alumnus

The first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States died on Wednesday. Thomas Eric Duncan was in Liberia, where he had helped a pregnant woman receive health care, before he flew to Texas.  The woman died sometime thereafter of Ebola.

Presumably it was through contact with her that Duncan contracted the deadly disease. Feeling ill upon arrival to Texas, he sought medical treatment from a Dallas hospital but was initially sent home, despite telling a nurse he had been to Liberia (he was readmitted four days later by ambulance). Duncan, a resident of Monrovia, had no health insurance. 

Is this why the hospital rejected him?  Because he could not afford treatment?

This allegory makes clear the very real dangers of our dysfunctional health care system, an inadequate health care system. That is, anything short of universal coverage is a risk to our homeland security. While it is unclear whether it would have improved his chances of surviving, providing adequate care for Duncan in the early stages of the disease clearly would have reduced the likelihood of its spread.

If health care were free and universal, Duncan would have been hospitalized sooner. The Department of Homeland Security is of course already “managing” the Ebola threat. The New York Daily News reported recently that Homeland Security agents at five major U.S. airports are now screening every traveler arriving from West Africa by taking travelers’ temperatures, among other measures. That is, to be sure, administration of free health care.

Our current health care system and facilities could not withstand a major Ebola outbreak in the U.S. without extensive government intervention.  To be prepared for such an epidemic — or worse yet, a biological terrorist attack — the government needs to create a permanent risk-management system via the implementation of free universal health care.