Thoughts from the COVE
Dr. Jeffrey Chipman provides observations on disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recreational activities that accommodate social distancing have seen a boon this year. Sales of bicycles and accessories have made records. One shop reported that by July they only had about 20% of their normal inventory remaining and little chance of restocking. I went to buy a bike rack for my car. I was told by the shop I could be number 15 on the waiting list. I’m pretty sure the salesman rolled his eyes at yet another oblivious customer. High demand combined with poor supply (the bikes are made in China) made for a perfect sales storm. I’ve heard the same is true with golf and other activities like hiking. My mountaineering son described the roads in Utah’s High Uintah Wilderness area as parking lots on the weekends. The emphasis here is on wilderness…few primitive amenities, no motorized vehicles, and no Starbucks. Only one’s personal preparation, feet, and strength are allowed. Probably too few actually had the Ten Essentials for hiking, but at least being in a wilderness area meant they had the distancing essential of COVID-19 prevention.
The pandemic certainly has created opportunities and gain for some. My skepticism was peaked, however, when I heard auto insurance companies touting their largess in alleviating pandemic pain by providing premium rebates. This was possible because of the gains from decreased insurance payouts as restrictions reduced miles driven and associated auto collisions. I think of it as a refund for a product not used rather than corporate beneficence. Perhaps the auto insurance companies should just send the rebates right to state governments as several are raising gas taxes to pay for lost revenue due to lower gas sales. That makes sense, tax the poor souls who can’t stay home and have to drive for work to make up for those whose commute is now from the bedroom, through the kitchen coffee shop, to the home office. Maybe there should be an increased tax on slippers.
Most disturbing is the New York Times report that health insurance companies have made massive profits as a result of COVID-19. At the same time, hospital systems, infected with the fallout of COVID-19, are facing financial life support while working harder than ever as essential services to society. If we didn’t know it before, we certainly do now…the medical financial market is a complete disaster, and like Chase Bank, it is certainly “too big to fail.”
Jeffrey G. Chipman, MD, FACS
Frank B. Cerra Professor of Critical Care Surgery
Division Head, Critical Care and Acute Care Surgery,
University of Minnesota
Executive Medical Director, Critical Care Domain, M Health Fairview