'The stakes could not be higher, and the cost of inaction could not be more dire,' reads an open letter signed by nearly 1,000 American physicians.
Nearly 1,000 doctors across the country have signed an open letter to Congress urging them to adopt President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan — and experts say the consequences of not passing the $1.9 trillion COVID relief measure could be bleak.
The Committee to Protect Medicare, a nonprofit run by doctors, medical professionals, and activists, coordinated the letter-writing effort, according to a spokesman for the organization.
In the letter, U.S. physicians detail the benefits of the Biden plan and urge Congress to pass it immediately.
"From our perspective as medical professionals who see the pain and suffering that this pandemic has inflicted on people, we recognize the American Rescue Plan’s wide-ranging ability to help us prevent illness, reduce sickness and help our communities return to normal," the U.S. physicians wrote in the letter.
According to Becker's Hospital CFO Report, the $1.9 trillion plan brings with it many benefits for American health care. It would provide $20 billion to vaccine distribution programs, $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, $30 billion to funds for personal protective equipment for medical personnel, and a fund to add some 100,000 public health jobs.
The report notes that it would also include funds to combat fundamental inequities in health care. This would mean providing higher levels of funding for prisons and jails, where Black and Latinx individuals are disproportionately incarcerated, as well as more funding for local community health centers.
Republicans have pledged to obstruct the American Rescue Plan, and have lowballed Biden's plan with a much smaller $618 billion counteroffer — despite the fact that a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows that nearly 70% of Americans support the Biden plan. The poll indicates that even among Republicans, more than half either support Biden's plan (37%) or have no opinion on it (16%).
Democrats likely lack the 60-vote supermajority to pass it in the Senate but have taken early steps to bypass Republican obstructionists by using the budget reconciliation process to push it through — which would require only 51 votes.
In their letter to Congress, American physicians urge swift action to enact the American Rescue Plan, noting that more than 25 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and many suffer long-term or even lifelong complications. 451,000 Americans have died of the virus, according to New York Times data.
"The stakes could not be higher, and the cost of inaction could not be more dire," the physicians wrote.
They conclude the letter with a final plea to Congress: "'Normal' can be achieved when we immediately and fully implement the American Rescue Plan. Delaying its passage will only prolong Americans’ pain and suffering. Please pass the American Rescue Plan without delay and help save lives."
Dr. Rob Davidson, president of the Committee to Protect Medicare, told the American Independent Foundation that Biden's plan, in expanding vaccination programs and testing availability as well as adding public health jobs, will be an enormous boon to Americans.
"Not doing those things slows down the vaccination effort, continues to keep us bogged down in inadequate testing, and having tests that take too long to come back to really make them meaningful for contact tracing," he said.
Biden's plan also includes important state and local funding that the Republican counteroffer lacked, Davidson added.
"That [would help] them do all the work in their individual states," he said. "It allows states the flexibility to implement important programs of their own accord. I think every state is facing massive shortfalls in their revenues due to financial crisis."
And, Davidson noted, line items like direct checks to individuals, restoration of emergency paid leave, and aid for local businesses will enable companies to do what they need to do to remain safe and keep employees safe — without going out of business.
Of the $1.9 trillion price tag, he said, "I feel like people are focusing too much on the number versus the other number. They didn't start with a number and say, 'How do we apply that amount of dollars?' When you look at what they're spending, it looks like they said, 'What do we need to do to get this country whole, to stop the hemorrhage, and to start getting us back on track?' And they did it."
Davidson added that the American Rescue plan "needed to happen yesterday."
"This needed to happen a month ago or two months ago," he said. "Any time that goes by that it doesn't happen — it's just going to mean that more people will get sick, more people will die, more people will be in the hospital, more people will lose their businesses, more people will be kicked out of their housing. All of these things happen with every day that passes."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.