Category Archives: World Health Organization

Asbury Park Press Editorial: Don’t Settle For Triage

If you haven’t read the following editorial from yesterday’s Asbury Park Press you should and can read it below.
In the editorial titled “Don’t settle for triage”, the editor states that our health care system is broken and that proposals on the table now in congress do not go far enough to fix the problems with the system.
With the US ranked 37th out of 191 countries by the World Health Organization on most measures of performance,quality of care and access to it, there is plenty of room for improvement.
The editor states that our system should be built on what we do well and borrow from what others do better. It shouldn’t matter if the ideas come from Canada, Great Britain or France.
I happen to agree :
The acrimony and passion on display at three health care town hall meetings last week demonstrated several things: It’s an issue people care about deeply. It’s an issue fraught with conflicting information and attitudes. And it’s an issue that requires far more analysis and discussion before Congress proceeds to vote on any reforms.
While the forums failed to bring out the best in some people, they succeeded in making it clear that it won’t be easy to arrive at a consensus — at least not one that will produce anything in the way of substantial improvement to our health care system.

If the two area congressmen who held town hall meetings last week — Democrats Frank Pallone and Rush Holt — came away with anything, it was that the current versions of the House bills have left many people with grave doubts about whether they will make things better rather than worse.

One’s attitude toward reform depends in large measure on one’s perception of whether it is needed. Many of those who turned out at the forums — the majority appeared to oppose the House bills — insist the United States offers the best health care in the world. Given how fundamental that question is to the whole health care debate, it’s essential that it be explored in far greater depth in public discussions.

Few would argue that the United States doesn’t have some of the best hospitals, specialists and technology in the world. Most people like their doctors. Most people who have never had to battle their health insurers or hospitals over bills or coverages find little fault with them.

But a 2000 World Health Organization study of health care in 191 countries ranked the United States 37th, behind most advanced Western democracies. A 2007 Commonwealth Fund study comparing health care in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Great Britain ranked us last or next to last on most measures of performance, including quality of care and access to it.

A 2008 mortality study in the journal Health Affairs found the U.S. had the highest rate of deaths among 19 countries from conditions that could have been prevented or treated successfully. The Urban Institute released a study this month that found the U.S. performed better than other advanced nations in some areas and worse than in others. The study noted that only 45 percent of Americans thought the U.S. had the world’s best health care.

The American system does some things well, and others not so well. We are the only advanced nation in the world without universal coverage. Access to care and the quality of care are far more uneven than in western Europe and some Asian nations. We have high rates of infant mortality, rank near the bottom of industrialized nations in healthy life expectancy at age 60, fare poorly in coordinating the care of the chronically ill and have a higher incidence of fatal surgical and medical mistakes.

At the very least, the American health care system has considerable room for improvement. And that’s before we begin to talk about access to care, cost of care — the U.S. spends twice more per-capita on health care than any other nation — and the mind-numbing bureaucratic waste.

The debate needs to get beyond the fear-mongering and the belief that to look to European models for answers moves us toward socialized medicine. That is patent nonsense. There are nearly as many different models in Europe as there are countries, and many of those nations — Germany, France, Italy, to name a few — have features worth emulating. And almost all of them are built around private insurers.

Our health care system is broken. The reforms on the table today don’t go far enough to repair the damage. And given the tenor in Washington and the belief that more compromises to what’s on the table now will be needed to get any bill passed, it’s likely any reforms will be weak medicine at best.

Citizens need to do their homework. They need to take a hard look at our system, compare it with others and insist our politicians come up with a patient-centered model rooted in improved access and care, reduced bureaucracy and transparency in billing and health outcomes. The system should build on what we do well and borrow from what others do better.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Congressman Frank Pallone, Congressman Rush Holt, health care reform, lth, World Health Organization

Health care is a right, not a privilege

by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders

June 8, 2009
Let’s be clear. Our health care system is disintegrating. Today, 46 million people have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. At a time when 60 million people, including many with insurance, do not have access to a medical home, more than 18,000 Americans die every year from preventable illnesses because they do not get to the doctor when they should. This is six times the number who died at the tragedy of 9/11—but this occurs every year.

In the midst of this horrendous lack of coverage, the U.S. spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation—and health care costs continue to soar. At $2.4 trillion dollars, and 18 percent of our GDP, the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country is unsustainable both from a personal and macro-economic perspective.

At the individual level, the average American spends about $7,900 per year on health care. Despite that huge outlay, a recent study found that medical problems contributed to 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007. From a business perspective, General Motors spends more on health care per automobile than on steel while small business owners are forced to divert hard-earned profits into health coverage for their employees—rather than new business investments. And, because of rising costs, many businesses are cutting back drastically on their level of health care coverage or are doing away with it entirely.

Further, despite the fact that we spend almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country, our health care outcomes lag behind many other nations. We get poor value for what we spend. According to the World Health Organization the United States ranks 37th in terms of health system performance and we are far behind many other countries in terms of such important indices as infant mortality, life expectancy and preventable deaths.

As the health care debate heats up in Washington, we as a nation have to answer two very fundamental questions. First, should all Americans be entitled to health care as a right and not a privilege—which is the way every other major country treats health care and the way we respond to such other basic needs as education, police and fire protection? Second, if we are to provide quality health care to all, how do we accomplish that in the most cost-effective way possible?

I think the answer to the first question is pretty clear, and one of the reasons that Barack Obama was elected president. Most Americans do believe that all of us should have health care coverage, and that nobody should be left out of the system. The real debate is how we accomplish that goal in an affordable and sustainable way. In that regard, I think the evidence is overwhelming that we must end the private insurance company domination of health care in our country and move toward a publicly-funded, single-payer Medicare for All approach.

Our current private health insurance system is the most costly, wasteful, complicated and bureaucratic in the world. Its function is not to provide quality health care for all, but to make huge profits for those who own the companies. With thousands of different health benefit programs designed to maximize profits, private health insurance companies spend an incredible (30 percent) of each health care dollar on administration and billing, exorbitant CEO compensation packages, advertising, lobbying and campaign contributions. Public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the VA are administered for far less.

In recent years, while we have experienced an acute shortage of primary health care doctors as well as nurses and dentists, we are paying for a huge increase in health care bureaucrats and bill collectors. Over the last three decades, the number of administrative personnel has grown by 25 times the numbers of physicians. Not surprisingly, while health care costs are soaring, so are the profits of private health insurance companies. From 2003 to 2007, the combined profits of the nation’s major health insurance companies increased by 170 percent. And, while more and more Americans are losing their jobs and health insurance, the top executives in the industry are receiving lavish compensation packages. It’s not just William McGuire, the former head of United Health, who several years ago accumulated stock options worth an estimated $1.6 billion or Cigna CEO Edward Hanway who made more than $120 million in the last five years. The reality is that CEO compensation for the top seven health insurance companies now averages $14.2 million.

Moving toward a national health insurance program which provides cost-effective universal, comprehensive and quality health care for all will not be easy. The powerful special interests—the insurance companies, drug companies and medical equipment suppliers—will wage an all-out fight to make sure that we maintain the current system which enables them to make billions of dollars. In recent years they have spent hundreds of millions on lobbying, campaign contributions and advertising and, with unlimited resources, they will continue spending as much as they need.

But, at the end of the day, as difficult as it may be, the fight for a national health care program will prevail. Like the civil rights movement, the struggle for women’s rights and other grass-roots efforts, justice in this country is often delayed—but it will not be denied. We shall overcome!

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Filed under health care reform, Medicaid, Medicare, Senator Bernie Sanders, single-payer system, The Hill, World Health Organization