A COVID-19 infected Donald Trump staggered into Air Force One on a Friday, after reports hinted that his blood oxygen levels may have dropped into the 80s, according to USA Today. He left on Monday, and by Wednesday, reports CNN, he was back in the Oval Office. He delivered a public speech on Saturday. Rudy Giuliani was diagnosed on a Sunday and went to Georgetown University Hospital, because, says the BBC, the president’s doctor told him that there he could “get it over with in three days.” Both men recovered with astonishing speed. Both men received better COVID-19 treatment than you would.
Trump says, according to the BBC, that “This was a blessing in disguise – I caught it, I heard about this drug, I said let me take it and it was incredible.” He told the American people, “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.” He further downplayed the virus, says the BBC, by comparing it on Twitter to the flu: “Flu season is coming up! Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid.”
You’re going to beat it — if you receive the same COVID-19 treatment as Giuliani and Trump. But you’re not. The drugs they took are severely rationed. They were administered early. Moreover, their cost is astronomical to the average American.
Trump and Giuliani: COVID-19 Treatment
Trump said on Saturday, one day after entering the hospital, that his COVID-19 treatment was like “miracles from God,” according to CNN. USA Today reports that doctors gave Trump three major medications: Remdesivir, an anti-viral; dexamethasone, a steroid; and Regeneron, a then-experimental drug made of monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies, obtained from humans who have already had COVID-19 or mice, mimic the antibodies needed to fight COVID-19.
Doctors treated Giuliani with Remdesivir and dexamethasone. But he was also given Regeneron. When Giuliani received his dose, the BBC says, he told his weekly radio show that, “I am doing fine. Pretty much all the symptoms are gone. The minute I took the cocktail I felt 100% better. It works very quickly, wow.”
Both men, despite their ages, recovered quickly.
You’re Not Getting That COVID-19 Treatment
Head to the hospital for COVID-19 treatment, and you’ll go likely later than Trump and Giuliani did. Giuliani, in fact, according to The New York Times, says that, “If it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in a hospital, frankly.” And in a quote that epitomizes everything wrong with our healthcare system, he continued, “Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you. They’re going to examine it more carefully, and do everything right.”
If you have severe disease, you might get dexamethasone, says Verywell Health. It’s shown to improve mortality rates in people with severe disease and the elderly — but no one else. Your COVID-19 treatment might also include Remdesivir, now that the FDA has approved it for all COVID-19 hospitalized patients.
Your COVID-19 treatment will not include Regeneron.
Who Gets Regeneron?
Regeneron is currently scarce in the United States, with some states and hospitals actually doling it out by lottery. The New York Times says the situation “can only be described as rationing.” Doctors say Giuliani, Chris Christie, and Ben Carson, other high-profile Trumpies who’ve received monoclonial antibodies either from Regeneron or the company Eli Lily, likely shouldn’t have gotten them: they were possibly taking them from people who needed them more.
The Emergency Use Authorization the FDA gave for this COVID-19 treatment was necessary — but its application is broad, and one doctor tells The New York Times that, “half the people with Covid could qualify.” So while Giuliani uses his COVID-19 experience to point out that the disease is now “treatable,” and we’ve gone too far with masking and closures, he’s very, very wrong. Monoclonal antibodies are a vanishingly rare resource, with some hospitals using a ranking system to decide who gets them, and others giving them out by luck of the draw.
The New York Times says the number of doses of this COVID-19 treatment allocated — total — roughly equals the number of cases diagnosed in a given day. And if your hospital has some on hand, and you’re wealthy, or well-connected, you’re probably more likely to receive treatment, Robert Klitzman, co-founder of the Center for Bioethics at Columbia, told The New York Times. He says hospitals, currently cash-strapped because of elective surgery cancellations, may possibly want to curry favor with wealthy donors. So if a rich member of the board asks for their best buddy to receive Regeneron … well, he’ll likely get it.
You’re Also Stuck With A Mammoth Bill
Did you get Regeneron? Awesome for you. Now you have to pay for it, and it’s going to cost you somewhere above $2,000, according to USA Today. But you’re not as worried about that, because your Remdesivir may have already cost you more than $3,000. CNBC reports one study found that, on average, it costs $30,000 to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Hope you’ve got a good insurance policy — some of which are picking up the whole tab, some of which aren’t. It depends on your insurance, if you have insurance, and how the government decides to reimburse hospitals for caring for the uninsured. And let’s not forget that, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, while 7.9% of whites may not have insurance, 11.4% of Blacks and a full 20% of Hispanics remain uninsured.
Moreover, at least two doctors expressed concerns to The New York Times that monoclonal antibodies may not be distributed equally among all ethnic and minority groups — with white people more likely to get the life-saving treatments.
Not only are minorities probably less likely to get the COVID-19 treatment, they’re likely less able to pay for it.
Welcome to the greatest health care system in the world. If you’re wealthy.
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