What’s wrong with the US healthcare system?

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BY WILLIAM PATCHING
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Moore is never afraid of controversy. Whatever his personal contradictions, he rarely shies away from putting the spotlight on issues that the system managers would like to avoid.

Michael Moore’s work invariably gets slated by rabid right wingers but that does not mean he is wrong. The facts outlined in his film, ‘Sicko’, should make all Americans cringe and hang their heads in shame: to so loudly proclaim righteous Christian credentials, yet ration the availability of medical treatment for the least fortunate in society is barbaric and uncharitable.

In Britain, the National Health Service is less than perfect. But, as a secular nation inclusive of all, the Brits manage to find the funds to treat those less fortunate – the old, the poor, the long term chronically sick… and even illegal immigrants.

In America, people can be bankrupted by the crippling costs of health care. Why? Because, as Moore points out, the whole system is a business solely interested in benefiting corporations and greedy individuals – at the expense of the nation.

For those who say that a social based system – like that of the British – would mean a dearth of innovation, longer waiting times for all, poorer levels of treatment, more disease among Americans etc, it is worth noting the following facts:

Many medical innovations, be it drug developments or technological creations, originate outside the US. In fact the UK is “…ranked as the best performer in the G8 leading economies per unit of R&D spend.” (1)

So what?

Britain has just 1% of the world’s population yet “5% of its science, 9% of its scientific papers and 12% of its citations. It is also ranked second in the world in areas such as biological, clinical and pre-clinical research.” (Ibid) So a social based system doesn’t necessarily undermine medical progress in the way rampant capitalists claim.

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David T. Hardy’s homepage marquee, one of many libertarian/rightwing sites spewing venom and criticism of Michael Moore. While most hard-core rightwingers are almost incoherent in their political fantasmagoria, Hardy, a well educated person, is hard to fathom.

In fact, the Brits are anything but socialist. Alongside the state funded (actually taxpayer funded) National Health Service there is a thriving multi-billion dollar Private Health Care system. This is available to those who choose to pay a premium – either in insurance or directly to the medical professional/institution of their choice. The capitalist system thrives: if you have the money, you can pay to see a specialist. Right now. Your MRI scan or other tests need not wait. You can have a private room in a luxury hospit-hotel. Nurses will pander to your every whim. Treatment will be as good as in the best US hospital. Or maybe even better…

Doctors in the UK have yet to suffer the idiocies of the US legal system – the “it must be somebody’s fault so I want to sue” syndrome. Sadly, this outlook is starting to insinuate itself into the UK, but doctors there are not yet in the ridiculous position of worrying about being sued before they treat a patient. They will not elect to undertake an unnecessary Caesarean for fear that possible complications involved in a natural birth will lead to a law suit. They will do their utmost best for you – within their abilities. How can anyone ask more?

In fact the over-commercialized US system is dragging even wealthy Americans into an unenviable position versus their UK counterparts: “The US population in late middle age is less healthy than the equivalent British population for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung disease, and cancer.” (2)

It gets worse: “…individuals in the top of the education and income strata in the United States have comparable rates of diabetes and heart disease as those in the bottom of the income and education strata in England.” (Ibid) So, healthwise, a poor Brit is as well off as a rich American!

Yet America is the richest nation on earth. How can this be?

In the name of its people, the Bush government is currently responsible for one half of the total military spending on the planet. The media and the government want people to believe this is normal and necessary. But is it?

America spends some eight times the military expenditure of China and Russia. Combined.

Iran, the latest so-called military threat – conjured up by the Neo-con media to keep US citizens fearful for the nation’s security whilst comatose on social welfare programs – spends some 6 billion dollars. About one percent of the amount the US will expend this year. (3)

Some threat.

The CIA uses non-dollar comparisons in its ‘Fact Book’ – comparing the percentage of national GDP spent on the military to justify this hideous reality. On this spurious basis Chad – one of the poorest nations in the world in the heart of the African continent – spends more than the US!

With elections looming, Christianity is a big deal in the US right now. Yet it is focusing on the wrong things. For example, Christian pro-lifers hysterically proclaim that a few cells of a newly fertilized human egg constitutes a ‘precious’ life, to be protected at all costs. To outsiders this seems completely hypocritical when the US health system allows millions of citizens to die through lack of access to adequate medical care.

What price a precious life in New Orleans during Katrina?

Why is the child mortality rate in Detroit more than that of El Salvador with 15.9 deaths per thousand births versus 10.5? (4)

Why is a recently fertilized human egg more ‘precious’ than a Detroit baby, stillborn because her mama has no money?

Not everything Moore says is right, but on one thing there should be no argument: a free universal health care system should be implemented for the American people. The US has the funds. Does it have the will to divert some in a truly Christian fashion?

Sources:
1. http://www.dti.gov.u k/about/ministerial- team/page39412.html
2. ”Disease and Disadvantage in the United States and in England,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2006
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of _countries_and_federations_by_military_expenditures
4. http://www.michaelmoore.com/sicko/checkup/

This article is copyright © 2007 of Will Patching

4 comments on “What’s wrong with the US healthcare system?
  1. A very commendable piece that should be widely circulated. The author IMHO is masterful at presenting not only facts but the logic behind them which fuels his conclusions. I appreciate the frequency of articles on this issue on CJO, as this is by far one of the “make or break” issues for the American polity.

  2. I was searching for ‘diabetes education’ at google and got this your post (‘??s wrong with the US healthcare system? at The Greanville Journal’) in search results. Not very relevant result, but still interesting to read 🙂

  3. I was searching for ‘diabetes for dummy’ at google and got this your post (‘??s wrong with the US healthcare system? at The Greanville Journal’) in search results. Not very relevant result, but still interesting to read 🙂

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