Universal Healthcare and the Military


What was the National Guard’s role in public health control of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

This is a study into why the United States had to call in the military and what the military role was in helping to combat COVID-19. This study will outline a short literature review on the history of the US healthcare system as well as previous military involvement into pandemics. Following the literature review, an ethnographic study into the Ohio and Nebraska National Guard testing missions will be discussed.

History of Healthcare in the U.S.

Reflections: The Past, Present, and Future

The United States currently stands as one of the only developed nations without universal healthcare. Although the Affordable Care Act is still in full effect in 2020, the U.S. still stands out with its efforts to make medical care accessible to the public. With the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, it’s brought into focus the need to reform our healthcare promoting universal healthcare for affordable access to the many who lack health insurance today. There are gaping holes in our health care coverage with millions finding themselves without coverage before and during the pandemic. Typically, the costs of care is what impacts individuals decision to seek care if symptoms are present. A number of Americans without health insurance has continued to grow and impedes our nations health and productivity, diverting hospital emergency resources to what should just be routine medical care. To explain the healthcare structure we have today and exactly why we’re an outlier among developed nations, several explanations are given: 

The Past: An explanation on the historical-cultural structure of healthcare
       Americans typically are found to have a more negative attitude towards the government when comparing most people in other countries. This attitude has stayed consistent since the 18th century and there are a few explanations for this. Beginning with the self-selection of immigrants back in the colonial times, the desperate would flee their countries to the unknown in America. This would include draft dodging europeans and individuals leaving their countries due to failing political revolts. Religion also plays into this history with many immigrants identifying themselves to be in opposition of the church. Adding on to the first explanation is de Tocqueville’s: an absence of having a traditional aristocracy and having a social hierarchy that leads to a new culture that is less respectful and accepting of authority figures. The one thing about the U.S. that makes us similar to other industrialized nations is our stratified socioeconomic status, where we differ is in the self identification of Americans. In many other countries similar to the U.S., a large proportion of individuals identify as working class, whereas in the U.S. everyone self-identifies as being middle class. This leads to a very simple reason for the lack of universal healthcare, there’s no self-identified working class, meaning no labor party, lack of national health insurance when compared to other developed nations. 
       Along with the historical-cultural explanations, there are a few political-structural explanations to this. The first and simplest explanation to our healthcare is the design of our constitution. The policies within our constitution redistributes resources from the wealthy to the working class but those considered middle class have practically no part or affect in the policies. The U.S. itself has one of the weakest political parties and rarely does the notion of introducing a new health policy is included onto any party’s platform. The last time a significant health policy was introduced was during 1965. With the U.S. lacking in strong political parties, the power of money in politics takes over. An individual politician without a group can be just as successful if they have the wealth. Similarly, if a group has a large amount of resources they’d be successful in introducing and pushing for any new policy. Sadly, it’s been a recurring theme with those large groups opposing universal healthcare insurance. 

​US Military Response to Pandemics

Covid-19 and Influenza
There’s a long history of the National Guard supporting states and our nation during times of emergencies. The national guard was utilized for the current pandemic being called on and activated by state governors.

  • March 18, the activation of approximately 300 personnel from the Ohio national guard to assist in humanitarian efforts
  • Requested to support Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services by food packing and distribution
  • In 2009, the national guard was also activated during the H1N1 influenza but distributed vaccinations and medical supplies. 

Project Links


Ethnographic Methods



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