Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Health Care - What's The Problem?

If you are lucky enough to have good health insurance or receive socialized medicine via Medicare it's easy to forget about the millions of American's who can't afford to go to the Doctor, Dentist or Optometrist.

The Independent has a sad article about thousands of people, who can't afford to see a dentist, get prescription eyeglasses or have basic medical tests and treatment - lining up for a temporary free clinic staffed by volunteers in Los Angeles.

The clinic is made available by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps which was originally created by Stan Brock to deliver basic medical aid to people in inaccessible regions of the world - but which now does 60% of their volunteer work in the U.S. - doing their best to help the hurting and helpless, those who don't have medical insurance or are under-insured and can't afford the deductibles.

The article Hidden Hurt from the Washington Post describes the work this organization does in Appalachia and this CBS video, describes the work they do in Knoxville.

If you watch these videos and read the associated articles - it's very clear how dysfunctional our society is in providing basic health services to the approximately 60 million people (about 1 person in 5) without health insurance. It's sad to think that in a country as great as ours that we would be so callous when it comes to something so basic to human dignity.

Depending on which measurement you look at in the World Health Organization study the U.S. is either 37th or 24th among the 191 nations in quality of health care but we spend 13.7% of our GDP on health care - compared with a socialized program like in the U.K. which spent 5.8% of GDP or Norway that spends 6.5% of GDP.

The people that don't want change in health care policies are those with money to lose. They are willing to spend money to convince relatively affluent people who can afford health care via private insurance and those who already enjoy the benefits of socialized medicine (Medicare), that the status quo is fine. They are of course also willing to spend money lobbying members of Congress to keep whatever facet of our current health care system provides them with a profit.

I'm guessing that the people who showed up at the Remote Area Medical free clinics in Knoxville, Virginia or L.A. hoping to get some free basic medical care; are not the same people holding signs and yelling about the evils of the government intervening in what they know to be a broken system. I'm hopeful the millions of thinking and caring Americans can work together to do something we should have done a long time ago - make health care available to everyone and find ways to reduce health care costs.

Change will be hard with the big money special interest groups lobbying, and tabloid news going for the idiot angle, but it isn't impossible - Norway and Great Britain are just two examples of nations who provide quality universal health care while spending half what the U.S. does as a percentage of GDP.


I was watching Sean Hannity present the non-thinking person's view of health care reform while writing this. It was a weird juxtaposition to think about working people queueing up in L.A. at 3 am in hopes of getting an abcessed tooth pulled for free, and what the cable news and radio talk show hosts are feeding the sheeple who take their drivel seriously.