A letter writer (Jack Kean of Pelham) to the Birmingham News Middle letter on this page today suggests that health care is not a right. He then takes the obligatory swipe at France and Canada and Germany (why did he leave out Great Britain?) by criticizing their systems and asks the questions "Do you take my money to pay for the health care of others?" and "Do you lower the quality of health care in general so that some level of health care can be provided to all?"
Comparing health care among nations is not easy, but one way to do it might be to compare life expectancies. Even this measure is not simple, as expectancies among lesser developed countries can be skewed by high infant mortality such that if one survives their first year of life, their life expectancy is much greater than the overall life expectancy for the country.
But among the more developed countries of North America And Europe this is not a problem, and its like comparing apples to apples. The 2006 review of the United Nations World Population Prospects Report reveals that life expectancy in the U. S. ranks number 38 at 78.2 years. Ahead of us are Cuba (37 - 78.3 years), Germany (23 - 79.4), U. K. (22 - 79.3 years), Canada (11 - 80.7 years) and France (10 - 80.7 years). U N Report. These are all countries who have health care systems that unlike the U. S. are not controlled by private insurance companies.
What about medical care? President Bush says we have "the best health care system in the world." The New York times recently published a N Y Times Opinion that addressed this misconception. In the year 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the health care systems of 191 nation, and the U. S. came in 37th, with France and Italy taking the number 1 and 2 spots.
Even more recently the Commonwealth Fund (Commonwealth Fund Mirror Mirror) compared the United States with Australia, Canada, Germany New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and the U. S. came up last in most categories. "The U.S. is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance on access, equity, and health outcomes," the report states.
Of course, in our country there are 45 million or so citizens who have no health insurance and millions more who are underinsured. The New York Times points out that the president "blithely" says they "can always get treatment in an emergency room." Well that is a whole different issue and just contributes to the problem of inadequate care for some of those who really need emergency services, and just shows how out of touch the president is how he and others in his party who spout such garbage contribute to the misunderstanding that a lot of Americans have on the issue.
To the letter writer, this "lowers the quality of health care" that you might receive if you use the emergency room: this is already happening to you.
And also to the letter writer, who probably supports the president's position, who do you think pays for those emergency room visits from people who do not have insurance? I know who. You and I do.
This issue is so important that I do not mind revealing that I have to pay almost $800 a month for insurance, and that is with a high ($1500) deductible. That reflects an 11.94% increase in my premiums over last year and I have reached the tipping point and will probably change to a different plan with less coverage offered by the same group (American Veterinary Medical Association Group plan) in order to afford it. The coverage has always been excellent from the AVMA, but their rate increases reflect an industry wide problem that will not be dealt with until insurance companies (and drug companies) are reined in and health care is fairly offered to all. Fairly.
Whether it is HillaryCare, ObamaCare, EdwardsCare (the source of HillaryCare according to Elizabeth Edwards) may not be as important as the fact that the democrats are at least discussing the issue and offering plans (and hope) to address this escalating problem.
Our goal should be "No Patient Left Behind." *
*without using "No Child Left Behind" as the model.