Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wonderful, Accessible Health Care

You might think, with the widespread, deep, and growing dissatisfaction of the American people with this nation's health care system, that only a fool, knave, or a comedian would declare "The best health care system in the world is here. Now whether they choose to access it...."

So saith Sean Hannity April 8 on his syndicated radio program. Sean obviously is no comedian. And a guy who calls Barack Obama a "socialist," who believes a 4% increase represents an emasculation of the defense budget, and earns (as of 2004) approximately two million dollars a year (merely for his radio program, television and personal appearances aside) to come up with this stuff is surely no fool.

"The best health care system in the world?" We all know that back in 2000, when approximately 39 million Americans lacked health insurance, the World Health Organization concluded that the United States of America had the 37th finest health care system in the world. And then roughly 8 million people lost health care over the following seven years. And that was before this deep recession we're now experiencing, one which finds Americans, many of whom were insured through their employment, having lost their jobs and the health care that went with it.

"Whether they choose to access it?" An article, "Ten Reasons Why American Health Care Is So Bad" by Ezra Klein in The American Prospect of November, 2007 links to this article by The Commonwealth Fund, Klein summarizes the findings on access:

It's true, Americans do have short waits for non-elective surgeries. Only 4 percent of us wait more than six months. That's more than in Germany and the Netherlands, but considerably less than the Canadians (14 percent) or the Britons (15 percent). But our high performance on the waiting times only account for individuals who get the care they need. Our advantage dissipates when you see the next question, which asks how many patients skip care due to cost. And here, America is far worse than anywhere else.

In just the past year, a full 25 percent of us didn't visit the doctor when sick because we couldn't afford it. Twenty-three percent skipped a test, treatment, or follow-up recommended by a doctor. Another 23 percent didn't fill a prescription. No other country is even close to this sort of income-based rationing. In Canada, only 4 percent skipped a doctor's visit, and only 5 percent skipped care. In the U.K., those numbers are 2 percent and 3 percent. Few of our countrymen are waiting for the care they need, that much is true. But that doesn't mean they're getting it quickly. Rather, about a quarter of us aren't getting it at all.


So they "didn't choose to access it" because they couldn't afford it. Sure, there is access for sick and injured Americans when care is urgent. It's called the emergency room. And if an American needs care and it's not urgent? It's off to the waiting room and exorbitant costs for the hospital and/or the taxpayers.

Conservatives claim to be enraged at high taxes, reasonable taxes, low taxes, any taxes. Presumably, then, they live under the illusion that the uninsured endure severe illness in silence, loathe to utilize the services of the local hospital's emergency room. Many on the right expect uninsured children and adults will suffer quietly rather than endure the wait and aggravation generally part of the emergency room experience in urban hospitals. Alas, people fail to accommodate the wishes of the landed gentry on the right and instead drive up the cost of health care. They still receive inadequate treatment but at least we avoid "socialized medicine" and right-wing knave Sean Hannity, who is not as ignorant as he appears, can rest easily.

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