Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sorry folks: U.S.A. is not "Number one!"

I am watching the whole health care debate that is now raging in this country with what could best be characterized as disgust. And for some reason it is not the inept politicians or the greedy insurance companies who are in my sights today. (I'll save that for another day). No, today it's your average flag waving, patriotic American that is making me sick. And this whole health care debate has underscored it for me. Here's why:

In general, I have always been I deeply suspicious of flag waving, patriotic types who like to loudly proclaim how much they love this country. Why? Because in my experience, these sorts also tend to be narrow-minded and often bigoted in their personal lives. I am talking about the folks you might see on TV who like to chant "U.S.A, U.S.A. U.S.A.". This will often be followed by "We're Number One !" or "This is the greatest country on Earth!".

Really? We are number one? Well, in relation to health care, we are certainly not number one. Not even close. We are not number one in education either. In education we rank #18 (with South Korea coming in on top). But back to health care... here are the stats.

1. Preventable deaths- rank #14 (France -that country with Socialized medicine- is #1)

2. Life Expectancy- U.S. rank #24 (Japan in #1)

3. Health Care System in general (as determined by the World Heath Organization) U.S #37 (again those French are number #1!)

So I watch these outraged Americans on TV at these Town Hall meetings and I see them shouting down anyone who wants to have a real discussion about health care reform, and why are they angry? A. Because our system is just fine and we don't want government screwing it up. (Again... France whose health care system is "socialized" and government run is number one in the world, but don't tell them this because facts make them angry). Anyway...I see these people disrupting these meetings and I just know in my gut these are the same folks waving all the flags and cheering on the troops, and telling people not to criticize the president (oops, that's okay now that a Democrat is in the White House) and it just pisses me off. Maybe we used to be a great country, but right now, by the yardstick I use to measure such things (Yardstick: How well do we take care of our own people?) we are struggling to be just a good country. Forget about great. Now don't get me wrong. This country, as envisioned by it's founders, and even practiced from time to time, is most definitely a fine nation. At times it has even been the finest. I love my country. I just need to report the facts here: We have slipped. And more than just a little bit.

But, to be fair, we do have our areas of excellence. We are number one in military expenditures (coming in at twice as much of all of Europe combined). So we are good at fighting.

That's something I guess.


talandisjr said...

Thanks for the post, Mike! It's times like these when I'm happy to be living abroad! It seems like there is so much fear in the USA right now. People know things can't stay as they are (as O rightly points out in his speeches), but the intrenched interests don't want to move or change. Regular folks don't know much and are ripe to be manipulated by pols and other groups with strong agendas. Tough situation! I can see why O wanted to tackle this problem early on and why he's pressing for it. It's now or never, it seems.

You mentioned Japan in your post... that's right! People here live a LONG time. Since extended family households are common, it's not rare to have 3 or even 4 generations living in the same home. Our children's great gramma is still alive... Health care here is mandatory to have. You can't NOT have it...

I'm looking forward to the USA really improving the health care situation. I see it happening despite all the struggles to get there...

theswearingchef said...

Good post Mike, and thanks for the positive comment about military spending, I'm doing my best to keep it up, but can't guarantee that this will go on forever!

On a more serious note, it is very dispiriting to see how clever and well organized the moneyed interests are and how gullible and ill-informed the general populace.

I am still very hopeful that there will be meaningful change in the next few months that will start us down the path of positive reform.

My bottom line is that we need a well defined, transparent standard policy available to all, and to ensure that all policies are more easily understood and transparent. Ever try to figure out how your "plan allowance based on usual and customary" is calculated, just after you found out is was 1/3 the amount your plan's preferred provider charged? Good luck! Private companies do what private companies do best, maximize profits. In this case, the best way to do that is obfuscate plan benefits to minimize true competition up front, and then squeeze both the providers and policyholders at the time of service. There was a good AP article today on the privatized version of Medicare, "Medicare Advantage" and how they accomplish this task well.

I'm afraid that other important considerations including end-of-life counseling benefits and incentives to providers for patient wellness rather than patient procedures will have to wait for another day.

I am looking forward to a renewed push from both our leadership and the base in the coming months.