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Health Care: Why the World Intensely Watches the US Debate

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2009-09-02-operatingroom.jpgThe rest of the world is watching the U.S. debate over health care reform and is flabbergasted at the country's opposition to the obvious answers. They think every one should have access to health care and cannot understand why anyone would oppose Obama's plan. With the worldwide perception that the opposition is staged by the industrial lobbies from pharmaceuticals companies and insurance companies, the world views the U.S debate like this:

For decades, the largest economy in the world has tolerated the absence of health care for tens of millions of its population (currently 45.7 million), including 20 million children. The U.S. has not only tolerated, but even fundamentally accepted this failure that more socially responsible nations refuse to tolerate. Most countries around the world, including Japan, China, India and every country in Europe, believe that health care is a basic human right and that no one can be refused access to health care. Most of these countries summed the political will and public and private financing to establish nationwide programs. Even the poorest countries, which cannot afford universal health care, see it as a priority.

Furthermore, the U.S. spends three times the percentage of its GDP on health care compared to other developed countries. This means that the U.S. manages to provide health care to 80 percent of its population at the most astronomic cost in the world. The U.S. allows its pharmaceutical industry to sell drugs to Americans at twice the price at which they are available across our border, in Canada. When Americans began crossing the border to save on prescriptions, industry groups fought to close this loophole.

The United States prides itself in having the best health care in the world. It is the world's leader in advanced surgery and drug development. With the largest number of Nobel prizes in Medicine, U.S. practitioners perform surgeries and other medical feats that could not be performed elsewhere. As someone who has personally experienced the marvels of advanced surgery, this extraordinary level of excellence is the strength of the U.S. medical system. However, recognition of the quality of U.S. care seems to be lost in the debate.

Barack Obama, says conventional wisdom, is losing ground in the debate about health care. I think I echo the sentiments of many around the world when I say -- Congratulations, Mr. President: without you, we would not even have the debate. You tackled this most difficult discussion in the midst of an already challenging environment and have committed to do things that your predecessors were unwilling or unable to do. History has demonstrated how difficult this discussion could be and how vested interests will do anything to silence this debate and keep America from doing the right thing for its citizens. Those who oppose your plan are becoming desperate and are waging a most despicable campaign. These campaigns are well executed and financed by deep pocketed lobbies to disrupt meaningful dialog.

For those of us who watch this closely, we see health care opponents demonstrating the worst part of American democracy: the power for industries to undermine the public good for their own profits with deep pocketed campaigns that do nothing but play on America's most irrational fears. "It should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are," stated the president. I hope we will embrace the cause of caring about our entire population. And if this is to be liberal, I am proud to be a liberal. Writing this post while watching the intensely moving service for Senator Ted Kennedy gives an urgent call and spiritual dimension to assist the poorest in our society. After all, isn't it our moral duty? The world is watching intensely -- let's surprise it positively.

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