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John Oliver has condemned the high cost of emergency medical services in the US in a powerful TV segment.
He described the “small irony” in the contrast between the “vocal appreciation” received by medical workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic and the flaws still plaguing the US healthcare system.
Oliver played an excerpt from a past PBS News Hour segment in which an emergency medical technician said he was working during the pandemic without healthcare coverage.
“We do this because we love it. Everyone knows there's no money in it. But, right now, I'm doing all of this with no health insurance,” Adam Blinden said in April 2020, as most of the US entered lockdown to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Asked to elaborate, Blinden added: “The job doesn't offer it. And our affordable marketplaces aren't very affordable. If I get sick and, OK, I go get tested positive, I can't go to the hospital. Literally, life or death is what's going to put me in the hospital.”
Oliver then quoted a 2018 tweet in which journalist Maria Cramer reported having seen a badly injured woman beg bystanders not to call an ambulance because she couldn’t afford it, after her leg got stuck between a train and a platform on public transportation in Massachusetts.
“Awful scene on the orange line. A woman’s leg got stuck in the gap between the train and the platform. It was twisted and bloody. Skin came off,” Cramer tweeted in June 2018. “She’s in agony and weeping. Just as upsetting she begged no one call an ambulance. ‘It’s $3000,’ she wailed. ‘I can’t afford that.’”
“It is a pretty strong indictment of our current healthcare system that that woman’s main concern was getting crushed financially even while she was getting crushed physically,” Oliver said.
He then took a closer look at the history of emergency medical services in the US, saying there is “no consistency” among states and pointing to the role of budget cuts dating back to the Reagan administration.
“Last year, everyone was anxious to show just how much they supported [emergency medical technicians],” he added. “Now is the time to f****** prove it and make big changes on their behalf.”