Health Care

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 46 million people without health insurance living in the United States as of 2009.  From the same report, roughly 30% of people with health insurance are covered by a government program.

In 2007, life expectancy in the United States ranked 42nd in the world.  “Researchers said several factors have contributed to the United States falling behind other industrialized nations. A major one is that 45 million Americans lack health insurance, while Canada and many European countries have universal health care.”  (Other factors include obesity, racial disparities, and higher infant mortality.)

A PBS Frontline report compares health care in the U.S. to Japan, Switzerland, Germany, and the U.K.  The report finds that the U.S. spends more of its GDP on health care, yet we have the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rate.

I linked last week to the story of author Melissa Mia Hall, who died of a heart attack.  There’s a very good chance that she could have survived, but she was one of those 46 million without health insurance.  The treatment that might have saved her life would likely have bankrupted her.

More than sixty percent of U.S. bankruptcies are due to medical expenses.  The article notes that roughly 3/4 of those being bankrupted actually had health insurance, “but many of them were bankrupted anyway because there were gaps in their coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services.”  Others lost their jobs and benefits as a result of health-related issues.

People are terrified that “socialized” medicine is going to destroy the country.  Yet a 2010 study comparing health care in the U.S. and other nations found that “Britain, whose nationalized healthcare system was widely derided by opponents of U.S. healthcare reform, ranks first in quality while the Netherlands ranked first overall on all scores.”  This despite the fact that we in the U.S. spend more than twice as much, per person, as any of the other nations studied.  (Author Liz Williams describes her first-hand experiences with U.K. health care here.)

Basically, many of these countries with evil, scary, government-run health care appear to be kicking our ass when it comes to actually taking care of their people.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard some groups arguing that the U.S. is or should be a Christian nation.  Wasn’t Christ the guy who commanded his followers to love and care for the poor?  “It is estimated that the changes made by the [Health Care Reform] law will result in 16 million additional individuals enrolling in the Medicaid program.”  (See Stephen Colbert for more on America’s Christian attitudes toward the poor.)

I don’t get it.  I don’t understand the fear.  I don’t understand the greed.  No health care system is or ever will be perfect, but we could do so much better.  Instead, health insurance companies rake in billions in profits while an estimated “68 adults under age 65 die every day because they don’t have coverage.” (Emphasis added.)

Our current health care reform has much room for improvement.  But for God’s sake, can we please try to move forward and make things better instead of fighting so damned hard to move backward?

Discussion and debate are welcome, as always.