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Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer

Posted: September 23, 2009 10:55 AM

Don't Americans Deserve a Health Care System as Good as the One In France?

What's Your Reaction?

A few years ago there was a great uproar from the Right Wing against France because its government opposed the War in Iraq. The Republican Congress went so far as to rename the "French Fries" in the Congressional cafeteria "freedom fries."

Of course, the Republican response was stupid and parochial - and not many years after, most Americans had come to agree with the French that the War in Iraq was a huge mistake.

I think of myself as an internationalist, but my latent sense of nationalist competitiveness is indeed aroused by the fact that, per capita, France spends less than half of what we do on health care and yet the World Health Organization ranks their health care outcomes as number one in the world, and we are only 37th.

We spend $7,290 per person and end up in 37th place. They spend only $3,601 and they are number one. That's just not right.

On the average, Frenchmen live almost three years longer than the average American. That's infuriating.

What's more, every legal resident of France is covered by health insurance, and in the U.S. 46 million people are uninsured. When someone in France goes to the hospital, everything except a small co-payment is covered - it's that simple.

The government doesn't deliver health care in France. Private doctors and hospitals do most of that. It just provides health insurance for everyone.

If you walk into one store and a suit you like costs $600 - and next door the very same suit is $300 - most people would call you a chump for spending $600. In this case the French are paying $300 and getting a better suit. What are we, idiots?

I, for one, refuse to believe that we are not as smart as the French. I can't believe that we willingly allow ourselves to continue to be fleeced by the private insurance executives who make millions off our current broken health care system.

In their private moments, those executives must not believe their luck. They are laughing all the way to the bank - laughing at us that we could be such suckers - and doing everything they can to keep things just the way they are.

Just today, they and their Republican defenders in Congress will try to prevent the Senate Finance Committee from ending the current practice (put in place by Bush and the Republicans) of subsidizing private insurance firms 14% to provide Medicare Advantage members the same benefits as Medicare. Do they think we are complete fools?

President Obama's health insurance reform plan finally offers us a chance to end the national embarrassment of being the world's biggest health care chumps. We can finally begin the process of ending the stranglehold of private insurance companies over our health care system with strong regulation, and by offering Americans a choice of keeping their private insurance or joining a strong public health insurance plan.

Of course the private health insurance companies hate the thought of a public health insurance option because it would force them to compete, cut profit margins, cut executive salaries, and control costs - just what America needs. And most Americans understand that. In a poll conducted just a week ago, 62% said they would be more likely to support President Obama's health insurance reform proposal if they had a choice of a public option. Only 28% said they would be less likely.

The only reason we wouldn't get a public option is if the insurance companies and their allies are allowed to hold our health care hostage by threatening to stop any form of health insurance reform if Congress limits their unfettered ability to fleece us through the current system. It is up to us to make sure that doesn't happen.

Call your Senators today. Tell them that - as Americans-- we're done with being the world's biggest health care chumps.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on amazon.com.