Explaining US Health Ranking
By Michael McGehee at Jul 22, 2009
Look at this table. (If it is too difficult to see then see the "full report" in the link above and go to annex table 1 and look at US ranking.) It's more than a decade old and surely our ranking has only gotten worse as healthcare costs have spiraled further out of control.
But what does this table mean?
The first statistic under "Attainment of Goals", level of health, means that 23 other countries have a population that lives longer.
The health distribution means that 31 other countries have that longevity distributed more equally.
Our system is the most respondant though 37 other countries compete for its fair and equal distribution (more on our response later).
53 other countries more fairly contribute to the financing of their health care system.
14 other countries do better at attaining their overall goals of providing healthcare.
Now to our healthcare expenditures...
No other country spends as much as we do on healthcare. With $2.2 trillion annually, we spend twice as much as we do maintaining our global military dominance and social programs like Social Security (which, by the way, is very solvent despite its regressive taxation).
71 other countries are more efficient in their expenditures, and overall 36 other countries provide better, cheaper services.
Dozens of other countries live longer, provide better services and are more fair but we spend more. We are good at responding... to those who can afford it. In light of our poor performance it might be better to say we "waste" more than saying we "spend" more. We are grossly "inefficient."
Some other statistics not in this report are that nearly 20,000 of us Americans will die each year due to lack of care, be it due to denial of services (maybe Aetna refuses a claim due to "pre-existing condition" or some other inhuman excuse) or lack of insurance. From 2001 to 2007 "premiums" carried the bulk on why healthcare costs have gone up. Over half of our bankruptcies are due to medical bills and over half of those have insurance.
What does it say about the private enterprises called "private insurance" that makes huge profits while an increasing amount of us are crushed under the weight of their inefficiencies and inhumane results? Nearly 50 million of us are uninsured and many more underinsured (if you or a loved one were to develop cancer how much of your bills would the insurance company pay?).
We have pregnant women sitting in maternal observation wards with a nurse checking their blood pressure on one side, another having them sign insurance information on the other, doctors telling them their options causing the mother to put undue stress on the baby while she worries if whether their insurance will cover an "elective c-section" or not. We have sick patients calling clinics and before they tell them their name or their problem, they first are questioned on whether they have insurance or not. We have un-insured father-in-laws who work till their bodies start degrading and cannot get the care they need. We have mother-in-laws working for the country's biggest employer (Wal-Mart) and due to A) piss poor benefits and B) an ex-husband who had beat her so severely that she has serious medical conditions, must suffer. We have best friends with insurance who hurt their knees doing favors for us but try to hold off on going to the doctor because their co-pays have been increased and cannot afford the lost wages. We have cousins with wives who have battled cancer successfully but now must battle nearly $100,000 in medical bills - they had insurance and still paid nearly $3,500 a month for chemo meds. These are real and personal stories that have happened to my loved ones in just this past month.
What can we do? Are there alternatives? I mean, we know there are alternatives but in our corrupt political system are these alternatives even present? Answer: yes, though it faces a tough battle.
With a single-payer program, the type which most of the developed world has, our quality of health would increase, prolong our lives, reduce the burden on our pocket books and would allow caregivers to do their job without being nuisanced by a corrupt, needless obstacle: insurance companies - entities that do not provide a meaningful or helpful service and do not deserve to exist.
And single-payer is being proposed in our government by John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich and some others. HR 676 would create millions of jobs and save us money. It would do precisely what it does in other countries. Have you contacted your congressperson's in support of this bill? (202) 224-3121
And of course we can do more than call our congresspeople. Other than the link above we can support singlepayeraction.org. You can share this note with others on your page. Possibilities are near limitless. Be creative, productive and effective.
Here is some other facts not mentioned above. Despite virtual silence on single-payer 2/3 of Americans polled recently supported it, and support has long been high.
Some decry the option as the plague. However 80% of Canadians support their healthcare system. The cries about not being able to choose your doctor or clinic or hospital is nonsense. There is nothing in HR676 that limits your choices. In fact, it increases them.
Anyway, to whatever degree possible, show your support and let's work together to get single-payer ASAP!
PS: As noted on someone else's page, I am no fan of single-issue politics as a tactical strategy. We cannot seperate our health from our political life, our economic life and so on. Addressing our need for and the achieving of single-payer reform would also address:
(1) property rights issues - should private insurance exist?
(2) allocative practices - is the market the best place to distribute healthcare?
(3) remuneration standards - should doctors be rewarded for how much money they save insurance companies or how successful they are in providing care?
(4) divisions of labor - should only the top layers of a company get quality care or should the care be equally distributed? Think about Wal-Mart, the country's largest employer, how is healthcare and other benefits distributed between store employee's and corporate executives?
Recognizing these holistic connections with other activists provides us with a stable foundation to build solidarity and strengthen our movements.