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The U.S. was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, and it will not be ready for the next pandemic if it does not invest in public health infrastructure, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said at an Axios event on Thursday.

Why it matters: Bennet said President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan is not only needed to pull the country out of the coronavirus pandemic but also to prepare it for new pandemics — and that preparation could include a public health care option in the future.

What they're saying: "One of the things that we have realized is that — I'm sad to say this — but the United States was not well prepared to deal with this pandemic, and we won't be well prepared to deal with the next one unless we begin to invest in our public health infrastructure again," Bennet said.

  • "[Biden's plan] not meant to be a federal intervention from the top down, but to support people at the local level that are doing everything they can to combat this virus."
  • "We should have done this months and months, months ago, but the Trump administration, of course, refused to believe there was a national strategy that was required here. And clearly there is one."

The big picture: Bennet added that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for a public health insurance option under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Bennet and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) reintroduced a public health insurance option bill, dubbed "Medicare-X," according to CBS.
  • "We should have had a public option in the original Obamacare bill, and we just never did it. I mean, we couldn't do it at the time," Bennet said. "I don't think there was as much support then as there is today for universal health care today. I think there's enormous support for universal health care."

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

Updated Feb 25, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: The future of health care in the Rockies

On February 25, Axios Denver reporters Alayna Alvarez and John Frank hosted a virtual event on the future of health care in Denver, featuring Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Denver Health chief medical officer Dr. Connie Savor Price.

Sen. Bennett discussed the critical need for more investment in public health infrastructure as well as shifting attitudes towards health care in the U.S.

  • On being prepared for the next public health emergency: "The United States was not well prepared to deal with this pandemic, and we won't be well prepared to deal with the next one unless we begin to invest in our public health infrastructure again."
  • On how the needle has moved on American health care: "I don't think there was as much support [during the Obama administration] as there is today for universal health care today. I think there's enormous support for universal health care."

Dr. Savor Price discussed the impact of the pandemic on health care professionals across the state, as well as what to anticipate in the coming months.

  • How health care professionals have adapted to the constraints of COVID-19: "Early on, we had to defer a lot of elective work and decrease our clinic capacity...so we had to get creative about how we get patients in. Many of us now are well versed and much more advanced in our capability to deliver medicine through either telephone or video conferencing."
  • How telemedicine is especially helpful with mental health treatment: "I think the next pandemic we're going to be dealing with is a mental health pandemic and we need to be really prepared to respond to that. That's one of the good things about telemedicine, is that is also a service that makes access to mental health services more readily available."

Axios Vice President Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with Dr. Hala Sabry to discuss the founder of Physician Moms Group, an online community of 115,000 physicians who discuss the challenges of working in medicine.

  • On the long-term impact of Physician Moms Group: "Over the last six years, we grew from 20 girls to 115,000 people, basically starting a revolution in medicine of what it means to be a woman in medicine and also addressing really hard topics like burnout and the systemic oppression of health care, the institution on the doctors...it's definitely grown over the last six years, not only a number but also in our mission."

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.

Feb 24, 2021 - Economy & Business

More parents leave jobs to care for children

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the pandemic drags on, child care is not getting any easier for working parents, and more and more are hitting their limits and leaving their jobs, per a new report from the think tank Third Way, provided exclusively to Axios.

The big picture: Lack of child care is now the third-most cited reason for not working, behind layoffs and furloughs. At the very beginning of the pandemic, it was No. 5.

Feb 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Bernie ready to roll on roads

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Senate Democrats are readying to pass President Biden’s infrastructure package through the budget reconciliation process, a recognition they're unlikely to get much Republican support for a potential $2 trillion package.

Driving the news: Sen. Bernie Sanders told Axios on Tuesday he’s consulted with the White House about how to prepare for the next round of spending, and he's ready to do it immediately via reconciliation — a process he controls as chair of the Senate Budget Committee.