Sunday, August 23, 2009

NYT: The Uninsured

The New York Times has put in it's tuppence worth on the healthcare debate, and it's made what I regard as the most important point.

Any nation as rich as ours ought to guarantee health coverage for all of its residents.
That, to me, is the argument in a nutshell.

What's the point of living in the richest society on Earth, if one doesn't feel the benefit of being a member of that society? There are countries all across Europe, who are not as rich as the US, where citizens enjoy a healthcare system far superior to the one enjoyed by the citizens of America.

That fact alone should be a source of shame to these right wingers who oppose healthcare reform.

A citizens health is a political issue. It is a simple right, as simple as their right to food and water.

Without these simple commodities, they die.

In Dickensian Britain, the poor died because they could not afford access to healthcare. And, even though the current American system provides emergency care for the poor, this is a flawed system as it circumvents preventative medicine, which is the way most of western Europe keep their populations healthy.

No matter how you slice the numbers, there are tens of millions of people without insurance, often for extended periods, and there is good evidence that lack of insurance is harmful to their health.

Scores of well-designed studies have shown that uninsured people are more likely than insured people to die prematurely, to have their cancers diagnosed too late, or to die from heart failure, a heart attack, a stroke or a severe injury. The Institute of Medicine estimated in 2004 that perhaps 18,000 deaths a year among adults could be attributed to lack of insurance.

The oft-voiced suggestion that the uninsured can always go to an emergency room also badly misunderstands what is happening. By the time they do go, many of these people are much sicker than they would have been had insurance given them access to routine and preventive care. Emergency rooms are costly, and if uninsured patients cannot pay for their care, the hospital or the government ends up footing the bill.

The fact that the current American system is not emulated by any other country in the world ought to tell it's own story.

No matter how many times people like Glenn Beck state that, "America has the best health system is the world", the facts simply don't bear out that claim.

And, for the richest nation on Earth, that should be something which they aim to correct.

Healthcare is a right. What's astonishing to me is that the Republican noise machine has managed to bring so many people on to the streets to demonstrate against that basic right. Many of them appear not to understand the issue - for instance, people arguing that the government ought to "keep it's hands off Medicare" - but, nevertheless, the very fact that they are arguing against their basic right to healthcare is jaw-dropping.

This should be an argument which the Democrats find impossible to lose, and yet - thanks to Fox News - it's the right wing who are defining the debate.

No country which gains a national health service ever gives it up. Which is perhaps why Fox News fears it so much. Their arguments regarding self sufficiency won't carry nearly so much weight once the state actually guarantees people's health care. Because this would be immensely popular, as Medicare already proves.

And, it should go without saying that any system where medical debt is the principal form of bankruptcy is a fatally flawed one. If you can't look after your sick, then what use are you to anyone?

Click title for New York Times editorial.

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