Michigan Congresswoman Criticizes Hospitals for Closing Down During Pandemic: 'It's Not Profitable to Take Care of Sick People'

Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib criticized the for-profit corporate interests she says are behind the racial and wealth disparities that are being exposed in the U.S. health care system by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic lawmaker said "people are making money off the pain and oppression" of black and Hispanic communities during a Sunday MSNBC segment highlighting disproportionate COVID-19 death rates among low-income families and non-whites.

Tlaib accused fellow members of Congress and the Trump administration of "turning their backs" on low and middle-class Americans while lining the pockets of corporations. She cited a recent closure in hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic as evidence the country needs universal health care because "it's not profitable to take care of sick people."

"A majority of my colleagues are millionaires they don't understand," Tlaib told MSNBC host Joy Reid Sunday, detailing how problems in poor communities have been exacerbated by the pandemic. "This is what doing nothing looks like. It took COVID-19 for people to say, 'Oh, this is going on?'"

Tlaib said high rates of asthma and respiratory diseases in minority communities have been capitalized upon by "corporate polluters who continue to get tax abatements" and red-carpet treatment from wealthy politicians. She encouraged Michigan auto manufacturing workers, Amazon warehouse employees and all other "front-line" job holders to protest unsafe working conditions. Tlaib urged co-workers to organize against any company where social distancing is not possible: "Your life matters."

Last week, Tlaib joined fellow Michigan representative Debbie Dingell in demanding a Detroit-area health system, Beaumont, explain why it suddenly closed a Wayne, Michigan hospital during the pandemic. The Democratic congresswoman said moving away from a for-profit health care system is essential, particularly during a health crisis, as evidenced by Beaumont's closure and discharge of 19 COVID-19 patients earlier this month.

"We see hospitals closing down because it's not profitable to take care of sick people," Tlaib said Sunday. "So if it becomes a COVID hospital they're not making money off of it. And I know folks are saying that's kind of hard to believe, but look it up. Hospitals are closing because now that they actually have to take care of sick people and not make money off of all these surgeries and for-profit schemes, then you see this happening."

Beaumont's offices did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment Sunday afternoon.

"Corporate greed in the government has wiped away this lack of urgency to put people first, tell the corporations to wait," Tlaib continued. "We don't have time to wait, people are dying."

According to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHHA), hospitals across the state have lost an estimated $600 million through April 3. The health care facilities have spent more than $150 million on equipment and supplies used to treat COVID-19 patients. Several privately owned hospital chains in Michigan including the Tenet Healthcare-owned Detroit Medical Center have furloughed hundreds of employees.

"These actions do not impact direct bedside nursing care for COVID-19 and do not impact emergency or medically necessary care access for patients with other medical conditions. We remain appropriately staffed to provide our full support to treat patients in greater Detroit," the hospital said in a statement provided to WJBK-TV last week.

detroit michigan hospital closing down
"Hospitals are closing because now that they actually have to take care of sick people and not make money off of all these surgeries and for-profit schemes," Tlaib said Sunday. ELAINE CROMIE / Stringer/Getty Images