Congratulations, America. We just finished last in another survey. No. this isn't about most
athletes on steroids, dumbest celebrity blondes, or even greatest personal or government debt. This survey is about your health and mine.
Compared to 18 other industrialized nations, the U.S. finishes dead last in preventive health
care. And "dead last" is the operative phrase. Compared to the best national health care
systems the American sickness chaos (as opposed to a health care system) causes over 100,000
people to die unnecessarily. Per year. We can't even kill that many people with all our
wars, drunk drivers and uncontrolled handguns combined!
The Commonwealth Fund did this study, and they found that all the other industrialized nations
are showing increasing success at lowering death rates among those needing medical care.
The U.S. is not only behind, but we're making the least progress. The study concludes that one
cause of America's sick treatment of sickness is due to our non-system, the lack of health
coverage for those dying folks. Back in 1997 the U.S. ranked fifteenth, then fell to last place
among 19 nations in 2002 where it's now mired.
The three best nations at keeping their citizens alive? 1) France 2) Japan 3) Australia. That's right, the very same France some politicos love to make fun of. Was it because they wisely
refused to get involved in the Iraq invasion? Or is it because they have so much more vacation than we do? Or their damned Euro is so much stronger than the Bush dollar? I forget why we're supposed to make fun of the French. I do know that once my wife got pneumonia during a winter visit to Paris. Within an hour of our call to the hotel front desk there was a physician in our room. He'd climbed six flights of stairs with no elevator. He never asked if we had insurance
though we did have to pay for the visit and prescriptions.
Here's what the Commonwealth Fund says about their study and how it's conducted across the
industrialized (read "rich") nations: "Study authors state that the measure of deaths
amenable to health care is a valuable indicator of health system performance because it is
sensitive to improved care, including public health initiatives. It considers a range of
conditions from which it is reasonable to expect death to be averted even after the condition
develops. This includes causes such as appendicitis and hypertension, where the medical
nature of the intervention is apparent; it also includes illnesses that can be detected early
with effective screenings such as cervical or colon cancer, and tuberculosis which, while
acquisition is largely driven by socio-economic conditions, is not fatal when treated in a timely
"Cross-national studies conducted by The Commonwealth Fund indicate that our failure to
cover all Americans results in financial barriers that are much more likely to prevent many U.S.
adults from getting the care they need, compared with adults in other countries," said
Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. "While no one country provides a perfect model of care, there are many lessons to be learned from the strategies at work abroad."
Let's stop pretending some insurance plan will cure the medical ills that assault us. Our
doctors are grossly overpaid, compared to doctors elsewhere but not compared to basketball pros or movie stars. Get a sense our priorities are skewed? Or is that screwed?
Interested in salary comparisons with Europe?
Try this: http://www.allied-physicians.com/salary_surveys/physician-salaries.htm
Or this: http://mdsalaries.blogspot.com/2007/07/economists-say-american-physicians-are.html
Want to know how Japan does it?
Hint: it's NOT a free market system by any means. They use that nasty thing called government
regulation. But just because it works for the Japanese...
Our other American sickness problems include obesity and lousy diet. The rest of the world sees us as the fat bullies. Duh.
We pay more for prescription drugs than other nations because our government refuses to
intervene on behalf of the patient. And the insurance industry itself is always getting a
healthy cut. And making life-or-death decisions which neither doctor nor patients can change.
America's public hospitals and their emergency rooms are being crushed. A recent blog by
DemFromCT on dailykos outlined some of the issues, like interminable waiting times at
emergency rooms where the uninsured must go when they can't avoid medical needs. And public hospital bankruptcies may become a hot trend to rival real estate foreclosures.
In short, don't get sick until the feds or your state do something about the sickness chaos.
But, not to worry, all members of Congress have a wonderful, fully-funded healthcare system for
their entire families. Aren't we taxpayers generous?
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