National health care program: What are the facts?

Found a great article on the recent OECD health data report for 2008.  Of course, not much has changed in recent years.  We still spend more than 2X per capita on health care than any other western industrialized nation and still get less for our money:

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development‘s Health Data 2008 reported that in 2006, the United States spent $6,714 per capita on healthcare, which is approximately double what was spent in Canada, and more than double what was spent in other Western nations, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Despite the spending, Americans don’t seem to be getting good value for their money, for if you look at the figures, it’s shocking.

The 2008 CIA World Factbook cites the infant mortality rate in the United States at 6.30 per 1,000 births, which is a higher rate than those in other Western nations, such as Canada (5.08), New Zealand (4.99), the United Kingdom (4.93), and Australia (4.51). The WHO’s World Health Report 2005, whose focus was “Make Every Mother and Child Count,” found US maternal mortality rates at 14 per 100,000 live births, compared with 11 for the UK, 10 for Japan, seven for New Zealand, six for Australia, and five for Canada. A September 2006 report from The Commonwealth Fund found that the American healthcare system’s performance falls short on key indicators of health outcomes, quality, access, efficiency, and equity, with the US ranking 15 of 19 industrialized countries on mortality from conditions amenable to healthcare, or deaths before age 75 that are potentially preventable with timely, effective care.

But perhaps the best known and most shocking statistic concerns health insurance: An August 2008 report from the US Census Bureau found that 45.7 million people, or 15.3% of the population, were without health insurance in 2007. A 2003 Institute of Medicine study Hidden Costs, Value Lost: Uninsurance in America calculated that every year 18,000 Americans die prematurely due to uninsurance. Also now familiar to many are the statistics published in February 2005 in Illness And Injury As Contributors To Bankruptcy, which found that 50% of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses, and that every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem. For the United States, one of the richest nations on earth, and arguably the most powerful nation on earth, is the holdout among industrialized nations in that it lacks a form of single-payer or universal health insurance to serve all its people. There are groups that want this to change.

And among these groups, physicians and the general public are included:

A poll published earlier this year in Annals of Internal Medicine found 59% support among physicians for a national health insurance program. Public support for a national health program is even higher. A March 1, 2007 CBS News press release reported on a CBS News/New York Times poll that found 64% of Americans believe that the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans, while only 27% said the government should not guarantee health insurance (9% didn’t know or didn’t respond). And an August 2008 survey commissioned by The Commonwealth Fund found that 82% of respondents agreed that the American healthcare system needs either fundamental change or complete rebuilding.

So when will we get a national health care plan?

United States National Health Insurance Act HR 676, which was introduced in January 2007 by Representative John Conyers (D-Mich), had as of June 2008, an impressive 90 co-sponsors. The bill would create an American national universal health insurance program that would be publicly financed and privately delivered, and which would use expand on the already existing Medicare program to provide coverage for all Americans. PHNP endorses HR 676.

But does HR 676 have a chance? “In short-term, no … but in the long-term, clearly so,” Himmelstein says. “It’s popular with people, and has the most co-sponsors of any bill in Congress. The healthcare system is crumbling, and not just for the poor, but also for the doctors and other healthcare professionals. There will be another round of discussion over the next few years, and then … We know major social change happens suddenly, but unexpectedly.”

You have to add another factor that Noam Chomsky mentioned in the previous post.  When enough of the elite lose money because of the health care system as it stands now, then will this sort of a bill be given a fighting chance at passing.  I look forward to that day.


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