Over and over, I have heard that America has the greatest health care system in the world. Politicians and pundits have repeatedly bragged about the high quality of medical care and medicine in our nation. I always believed the statements without question until recent years. Facts got in the way.
I went looking for the numbers behind the real situation. My grandfather Crockett often said, "Numbers never lies but liars use numbers." The real story told by the numbers is very disturbing.
I was shocked during the 2000 and 2004 elections when the Democratic candidates started throwing up the numbers of uninsured Americans. Even the Bush campaign could not diminish the magnitude of the problem. Various estimates place the number of uninsured at between 43 million and 60 million Americans. These numbers do not include the millions of other Americans in inadequate health insurance programs that fail to provide sufficient coverage. Bad health insurance plans are not differentiated from good ones in the numbers.
Lack of health insurance kills Americans. More Americans die from political decisions concerning health care policy on a weekly or monthly basis than died in the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The Bush Republicans are the chief reason that only the United States and South Africa do not provide government guaranteed health care to all citizens among the 50 most economically advanced nations globally.
Why do we fail to provide health care to all citizens? The answer is "private profit by a few." The HMO's and drug companies make obscene profits because we do not have a government guaranteed health care program. These same companies and sectors provide hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican candidates and organizations.
The degree of political influence of the HMO's and drug companies in the Republican Party was clearly demonstrated by the selection of Senator Bill Frist to be the Republican Senate Majority Leader. The selection had the clear blessing of the Bush White House. The Frist family is extremely rich because of their control of one of the nation's largest HMO's. Frist has by his own efforts played the dominate role in stopping all Americans from having government guaranteed health care. Frist is so powerful in the Republican Party that he is considered a leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008.
Jeremy Rifkin in his excellent new book, The European Dream, provides some startling numbers regarding American health care compared to other nations. He writes, "When it comes to evaluating the fairness of countries' health care, the US ranked.., fifty fourth, or last place among the OECD nations." The United States has only 279 physicians per 100,000 persons in our population while Europe has 322. American infant mortality rates place us at a mere 26th place among industrialized nations. Our life expectancy is significantly lower than that of the European Union.
The United States spends 10 percent of our entire Gross Domestic Product (the value of all goods and services in the US economy) on health care. It is the highest expenditure on the sector of any nation in the world. For the vast amount of money, the results are frankly terrible! Americans are paying for massive, unnecessary administrative costs and profit taking by financial middlemen in both dollars and deaths.
American companies are at a huge disadvantage with those of other nations as a result of our health care system. American companies provide health care for their workers. In other nations, government provides the health care. The added expense for American companies puts them at an extreme disadvantage.
The vast majority of Americans want universal government guaranteed health care for all Americans. The poor among us should not die because of political health care decisions or private profits. Only the private profit of a few powerful, politically connected companies (and the Republican Party they bought with campaign dollars) stand in the way. As voters, what will each of you going to do about the killing of Americans by health care policy? Are you going to condemn millions of your fellow American citizens to an early death by doing nothing during the 2006 and 2008 elections?
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