24 August 2009


One of the protestors at a recent Tampa town-hall meeting of a U.S. Congressperson mistakenly said that the U.S. has the best health-care system in the world. Hardly.

The W.H.O., I believe, ranks the U.S. as having only the 37th best. And, each of the 36 countries above the U.S. spends less per capita than Americans do. Spain is ranked number six or seven, spends less per capita than we do, and has one third fewer deaths due to wait times. Many countries--e.g., the U.K., Gemany, Austria--outperform the U.S. in terms of wait times for appointments and surgeries (but not true for Canada).

18,000 people in the U.S. die each year due to lack of access to health care. How much do those 18,000 families appreciate the facticity of free-enterprise "health" care protecting corporate profits, an overall system that lacks universal coverage and condemns 18,000 people each year to a death sentence?

Do we not have an overall system that is in some crucial ways a "death-care" system? And, does anyone deny that as a holder of an insurance policy (or coverage from a group policy) that we are at the mercy of the insurance companies--faceless employees--at the critical moment when we might need them? They can, and do, deny coverage after someone has paid premiums for years. Afterall, profits are the bottom line. Yet, I'm one of the Americans who is satisfied with my health coverage. But, I've never needed serious care. That's when my life would be placed in the hands of someone sitting in a cubicle of my insurance company, someone who would lose her job if she does not conform to meeting corporate profit goals.

No wonder people in other countries are amazed at the system under which we suffer. Do they complain about theirs? Endlessly. Does probably every other developed country have a better system, overall, than ours--but not necessarily the best doctors, nurses, hospitals, technology? Almost certainly--unless you are of the rich class of Americans who can freely purchase the best.

In addition, we force 700,000 Americans into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In France that number is zero; Britain zero; Japan zero; and Germany zero. This is criminal.

Furthermore, the U.S. private-enterprise, for-profit health-insurance system has the highest administrative costs in the world. U.S. companies spend approx. 20 % on nonmedical costs, while it is only 6% in Canada--run by government bureaucrats--while providing universal coverage. France has universal coverage while spending 4% on administrative costs; Taiwan spends 1.5%. This is one reason we need a government option: to force down costs.

And, of course, American life expectancy is not the highest; and our infant mortality rate is not anywhere close to the best, and in some places in the U.S. it approaches poor country levels. Too bad for them.

One protestor outside the Tampa meeting held a poster that reads something about "government takeover" of the health-care industry. Is this intentional disinformation or ignorance? Because it is just not true; it should be countered with the truth, along with the other two absurdities of the troika of scare tactics: death panels and "socialized medicine."

We really must have real debate in the public forum about health care in America. But mobocracy seems to have taken over with a campaign of disinformation.

Here's another reason we need real information so that Congress can decide: the GAO, I believe, has projected that by 2020 40% of the entire national economy (the GDP) will be made up by health care. My rough estimate is that might amount to some 7 to 8 trillion dollars. Is this why the scare tactics are so shrill? Some groups stand to make profits beyond belief. You have to ask, Why the scare tactics? Who is behind them? Is it a power play? Is it simply to cripple the Obama administration for the next three years? Is it about the mid-term elections? Why?

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