Trump-era policies have had "devastating impacts" on US healthcare, fuelling problems from decades of neoliberal administrations, the Lancet said in a shock report on Wednesday.
The Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health report found that reaching lowering rates to levels compared to other G7 nations may have prevented 461,000 US deaths in 2018 and 40 percent of deaths in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Neoliberal policies under Ronald Reagan had reversed gains from the New Deal and Civil Rights era, causing the US to fall behind other developed nations, the report read, adding that the Trump administration had imposed measures similar to Reagan era tax cuts, deregulation, austerity and privatisation of Medicare.
But adopting pre-Trump US policies was "not enough" to protect healthcare and "sweeping reforms" were needed to tackle four decades of "policy failures that weakened social and health safety nets and led to widened inequality", the report said.
US Public Health Crisis Figures
Public health agency funding cuts had led to 50,000 deaths among frontline staff workers fighting epidemics from 2008 to 2016, the report read, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to figures, roughly 11 percent of US citizens faced food insecurity, leading to higher risks of obesity and diabetes, further increasing co-morbidity deaths amid COVID-19. Poor medical care access and overcrowded housing due to poverty had facilitated the spread of COVID-19 in communities of colour, it added.
Opioid deaths had jumped in 40 of 50 states across the US after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it added.
The report slammed Trump's pullout from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and withdrawal of funding from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), groups tasked with responding globally to the ongoing pandemic.
Scientists Urge US To Lead Global Response Amid COVID-19
Despite ranking highly in global health security indexes, the ongoing pandemic had "shown how woefully inadequate" national healthcare and public health systems had become, Dr Richard Horton, Lancet editor-in-chief, said in a statement.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exploited existing health and social inequalities and nowhere is this more apparent than in the USA. At moments of instability, the world needs a strong USA, bolstered by a healthy population, to lead a global response,” he added.
Dr Steffie Woolhandler, Commission co-chair and professor at the City University of New York and Harvard University, said that "American's health was deteriorating even as our economy was booming".
“This unprecedented decoupling of health from national wealth signals that our society is sick. While the wealthy have thrived, most Americans have lost ground, both economically and medically. The Biden administration must reboot democracy and implement the progressive social and health policies needed to put the country on the road to better health," she added.
But the Commission listed numerous reforms to tackle the US health crisis under the Biden government, including a "nationwide, science-led response to the COVID-19 pandemic", repealing Trump's 2017 corporate tax cuts, increase taxes on capital gains and launch the government's Green New Deal, among many others.
The findings follow a study released in January revealing a 10 percent increase in mask-wearing had reduced transmission rates (Rt) by nearly three times compared with regions not wearing masks.
The news comes after Congress cleared a Senate budget resolution for Biden's COVID-19 plan to tackle the virus across the US, including offering stimulus checks to furloughed workers and further support for frontline workers.
To date, the US continues to struggle with the pandemic, with over 27m cases and 463,500 deaths, according to figures from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.