To The Editor:
The Affordable Care Act, having been savaged during the process of political approval, still leaves nearly 30 million Americans without health insurance coverage. As a consequence, we are the only industrialized nation in the world without universal health care. This might be viewed as proof positive of proud American exceptionalism except for the pesky fact that we pay substantially more and get less in results than our counterparts.
We stand alone because we have been stymied for decades by a powerful alliance of vested interests: insurance companies, drug and medical equipment manufacturers and highly paid doctors. While Britain was developing its National Health Service after World War II we created the world’s first political consulting firm, Campaigns Inc. Their timely ploy in California capitalized on postwar emotions by labeling the proposed state health insurance program “socialized medicine,” a concept conceived in Germany, yesterday’s fresh enemy.
The guilt by association proved poisonous and enduring. They used the tag again successfully on the national stage in 1949 when Harry Truman sought to give America a public health plan. Predictably, it will be trotted out this campaign. It will fall in line with other infamous hit-and-run distracters like “death panels” and “pull the plug on Granny,” both lies, but serviceable in the quick run-up to voting.
We don’t do our homework and special-interest-funded politicians know it, so we get jerked around. It’s that simple. It’s that insulting.
We are the richest of nations but talk poor when health care is mentioned. We can afford universal health care. Unclear is whether we can continue to afford the bloated inefficiencies of mountainous insurance paperwork (25 percent of hospital costs in 2016), drug prices set by the industry (57 percent higher than elsewhere) and doctors paid double the average rate in other wealthy countries.
We spend over 17 percent of our economy on health care while Western European countries invest only 10.1 percent. But do we get what we pay for? The UN ranks us 28th in quality of health care, below almost all other rich countries. Someone’s benefiting, but it’s not the nation at large.
Aside from these practicalities, what’s truly unconscionable is 36 million Americans not filling prescriptions because of cost and over half of our neighbors avoiding needed treatment for the same reason. We have to ask ourselves what master do we serve, the health care industry or our responsible regard for one another?
Barbara A. Woodruff