Alone in the industrialized world: The American healthcare system
By Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 21, 2007, 01:32

Americans are not divided about the state of their health care system, according to national polls. In a February 2007 poll, 91 percent believe health care in America needs reforming. Sixty-four percent of those polled in October 2006 would prefer universal health insurance, even if it meant higher taxes. When 1,229 adults nationwide were asked in January 2006 if health insurance should be guaranteed for everyone, 62 percent said yes. In the same poll, 61 percent said they were concerned �a lot� about health care costs they are facing or will face.

In a surprising alliance, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott and Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern called for the current health care system to be scrapped by 2012. Stern said, �CEO Lee Scott and I agree: We need 'real solutions' for America's broken health care system, and that 'every day we do not work together to solve this challenge is a day that our country becomes less competitive in the global economy.�

�What business and labor seem to be agreeing on more and more is that everyone needs to be covered and it can't be done with a system designed in the 1940s if America is to be competitive in a 21st century global economy,� said Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon.

Alone in the industrialized world

�Every other industrialized nation in the world provides universal health care to its citizens,� Rep. Jim McDermott (D) of Washington says on his website. The U.S. is in fact the only industrialized country which does not provide a form of universal health coverage.

Americans annually spend $5,267 per capita on health care, while the industrialized world�s median is $2,193. The U.S. spends more on health care than any other country in the world. Presidential candidate John Edwards remarked, �We're spending more on health care costs than any other country in the industrial world and getting one of the worst products out the other end.�

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the U.S. as 27th in the industrialized world for infant mortality. The average life expectancy, according to the WHO, in the U.S. is age 78, ranking 25th among industrialized nations. The average number of good health years is 69, also ranking 25th, and below Slovenia. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 deaths in the U.S. are caused by lack of health insurance.

United States National Health Insurance Act

Five years ago Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the United States National Health Insurance Act (HR 676). The legislation�s stated purpose is �to provide for comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents, and for other purposes.� Reintroduced last January, the act would extend coverage to �every person living in or visiting the U.S. and U.S. Territories.� A United States National Health Insurance Card and ID number would be issued to every person living in the U.S. Coverage would include prescription drugs, mental health services, emergency care, primary care and prevention, and vision care.

According to Conyers, the act would �cover all medically necessary services . . . Patients have their choice of physicians, providers, hospitals, clinics and practices. No co-pays or deductibles are permitted under this act.�

The program would be funded by the existing sources of revenues for current health care programs such as Medicare. After a five-year period, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Services would be integrated into the program. Taxes would be increased for the top 5 percent of wage earners for a further source of funds.

Co-sponsor Rep Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio said, �Health care is one issue that unites Americans across party lines, across income lines. Because every person realizes that a single illness in a family can wipe out that family financially. So health care and the accessibility and affordability of health care is central to the government�s responsibility to provide -- to promote the general welfare.�

�This bill would control skyrocketing health costs and restore choice of physician and the doctor-patient relationship,� said co-sponsor Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor