The Best Health Care in the World?

Two pieces of information have caught my eye in the past 24 hours.

The AP released a report, based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control) statistics, saying that the US is now ranked 42nd in the world in life expectency. In other words, the citizens of 41 other countries live longer than Americans do. The story cites problems such as American obesity for our decline in the ranking. Here’s Forbes’ version of the story.

I don’t claim to understand all these big picture ideas, but I do have a few questions. How many of those higher ranked countries have some sort of national healthcare system (as opposed to our privatized one?) How is it that most of those higher-ranked countries have much higher smoking rates than Americans do? (Wouldn’t that perhaps level the playing field with those Americans who are obese?) The report claims that America’s life expectency rate declines because African Americans live 5 fewer years than white Americans. And I wonder how parallel that is to the number of people who do or don’t have health insurance?

Just asking.

The second publication that caught my eye is this editorial from Sunday’s New York Times – pdf version (which was forwarded to me by a half dozen people!) It’s a comprehensive statement about the sad state of affairs in American healthcare with plenty of statistics for those of you who just don’t want to believe how sad it is.

The editorial cites the many “ills” of our system with statements such as “American doctors and hospitals kill patients through surgical and medical mistakes more often than their counterparts in other industrialized nations.” And, “Even Americans with above-average incomes find it more difficult than their counterparts abroad to get care on nights or weekends without going to an emergency room, and many report having to wait six days or more for an appointment with their own doctors.”

I challenge you to read these pieces, consider your own experiences, and then listen carefully as our one-year-too-early presidential contenders talk about healthcare. Even if your own experience has worked well, are you confident it will work as well for your children when they are adults?

Not only don’t we have the best healthcare in the world — we aren’t even close. Not by any standard. Not even for those who can afford it.

And that, of course, makes it more important than ever that we learn to advocate for ourselves.

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3 thoughts on “The Best Health Care in the World?”

  1. I think anyone that has read my blog knows my greatest source of contempt for our healthcare system is by far the inadequacy of our doctors. More and more studies are starting to consider medical error as a true or underlying cause of death and as such, rates it as the number one leading cause of death in hospitals nationwide. A national plan or private insurance doesn’t really matter when you consider that either one is still going to get you the same ole doctors making the same ole mistakes. Our only chance at getting the healthcare we need… informed and assertive patients!

  2. One simple question: Are you on Senator Clinton’s payroll for her election campaign? I would suppose you would say, “No.” However, your unabashed longing for a huge, uber-expensive, socialist style healthcare system is evident in your article…if Senator Clinton isn’t paying you, maybe she should be for services rendered. Now, what we need in the United States isn’t a monolithic socialist healthcare system, but we do need our current system cleaned up. The skill level is high, the technological level is high, and there are a LOT of facilities in the US. But, the system needs a good hard look and some forced cleanup, starting on the outside. Doctors go to school for a lot of years; many feel they deserve big bucks for their time and efforts. However, when you have a medical malpractice industry gone wild, it does two things: it causes those doctors and hospitals to have enormous amounts of malpractice insurance, thus eating into the profits, AND the REAL cases of malpractice get hidden in the mix…we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to wash off the road grime and brake dust, and let our health care system in the US shine.

  3. Kirk, In fact, you and I agree on many things, e.g. the out of hand medical malpractice and the fact that skill levels and technology levels are high.

    The difference is — because the current system can’t get the right care to the people who need it — it is substandard. Period.

    I would ask you this. Do you have health insurance? And, have you ever had a health challenge that made you realize just how inadequate that insurance is? I’m positive you have not.

    Every day, hard-working, insured Americans are forced to file bankruptcy because they could not afford the additional monetary costs for whatever ailed them or someone in their family. I repeat, HARD WORKING, INSURED Americans.

    That doesn’t even account for the 45 million (or so) Americans who have no insurance at all.

    I don’t suggest we move to huge, uber-expensive, socialist style healthcare system — not at all. I suggest that a system modified from what we have now would work better.

    You can’t argue with the statistics, Kirk. And until you have had the experience of being insured — but still forced to pay thousands of dollars out of your pocket for substandard care (like I did — see: ) I don’t consider you to be capable of arguing the point with any sense of the reality of dysfunctional American healthcare.

    And by the way – I’m a registered Republican. Although — watching the landscape of the ’08 elections? There’s a good chance I’ll switch parties.


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Trisha Torrey
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