Lessons From the Pandemic

The pandemic has put a spotlight on health disparities that have hurt low-income populations for decades.

AmeriHealth Caritas Chairman and CEO Paul Tufano

© 2018 Guerrero, LLC/Cass Davis

The pandemic has put a spotlight on health disparities that have hurt low-income populations for decades. Although we see a light at the end of the dark COVID-19 tunnel, with vaccinations underway, we can’t just dismiss those disparities. The pandemic has been a wake-up call and a call to action for many who now recognize we need far greater action to address the underlying social and racial inequities that made low-income and minority communities far more vulnerable to the health and economic damage of the pandemic.

We are focusing this issue on the crisis of racism and discrimination that COVID-19 has laid bare. We want to elevate the lessons learned, born out of heartbreak and trauma, and how we, as a nation, must improve the overall well-being and resiliency of those who have less access to the social determinants of health — those life-sustaining resources that we all depend on for survival. Our cover story, “Ending Racial Inequity in Health — Now,” points to the realities of how racism has long played a role in health care access, health conditions and health coverage.

In another story, “Closure and Crisis,” we look at how the pandemic has been a final blow for many rural hospitals that were already struggling economically because they serve smaller populations, often with high unemployment rates. The fear of contracting COVID further exacerbated the situation as people postponed well-care visits and elective surgery — a financial hit that hurt urban health care systems as well. In just one example, Mercy Philadelphia, the birthplace of AmeriHealth Caritas, is closing as an acute care hospital after 100 years, leaving residents in some of the poorest neighborhoods in West Philadelphia without adequate access to inpatient services.

The stories in this issue show how COVID-19 has altered every aspect of health care and wellness across our nation. They also underscore how minority communities and seniors have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and continue to face inequitable access to the essential resources needed for physical, social and economic recovery. The questions now are, what are the rest of us going to do about it? How are we going to address the inequities to better ensure protections against future health and economic crises are in reach for all?

All the best,
Paul A. Tufano
Chairman and CEO