Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unhealthy Exceptionalism - The Class System and Health Care

The right wing is fond of bragging up "American Exceptionalism," most of which is purely invented drivel. This is not to say that the United States as a country hasn't performed intelligently, admirably, even heroically, in many instances.

Health care is definitively not one of those instances. In fact, our record is shameful, immoral, and fixed upon the profits of corporations and not on the health of average Americans.

The Commonwealth Fund Commission looked at 7 countries of different sizes with different approaches. In 2007 to 2009, the years for which the study was completed, among the seven nations studied - Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States - the U.S. ranks last overall, as it did in the 2007, 2006 and 2004 survey. 

The commission said, among other things, "the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last on dimensions of access, patient safety, coordination, efficiency, and equity. The Netherlands ranks first, followed closely by the U.K. and Australia."

The U.K.? You mean the bogeyman set up by the radical right wing every time we have a debate about health care in America? And how can the Dutch - pot-smoking, syringe-distributing sex fiends come in first among this clutch of western nations?

Adding insult to injury, in 2007, health spending was $7,290 per person in the United States, around double that of any other country in the survey. Australians spent $3,357, Canadians $3,895, Germans $3,588, the Netherlands $3,837 and Britons spent $2,992 per capita on health in 2007. New Zealand spent the least at $2,454.

And U.S. spending has gone up about 8% per year since 2005 while overall inflation hovered around 3.5%.

These general outcomes have to do with equity, (that is, distribution), of services. "The lower the performance score for equity, the lower the performance on other measures. This suggests that, when a country fails to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, it also fails to meet the needs of the average citizen," the report reads.

It may seem facile to compare the breakdown in the financial sector of '07 and '08 and the cavalier negligence of BP and Massey Energy's coal mining distaster earlier this year to the never-ending avalanche of health care problems in the U.S.

The financial, energy and health care sectors are huge components of our economy, however, and have been out of control for decades.

Each of the three sectors have lost what tiny moral compass they once may have had. 

They are killing people and otherwise ruining lives, devastating our environment, happily shunning their duties as Americans, as human beings. 

The right wingers - especially its most ardently radical pro-business sectarians - froth like mad animals if they whiff but a hint of push back from the left on such issues, labeling it disingenuously as "class warfare."

It is clear it is the right that has been waging class warfare. And many on the liberal left have stood by as long as it was the poor, the working class and the otherwise marginalized who were attacked. 

Now the three-headed right wing dog has been greedily devouring the middle and even the upper middle classes. 

Look at the littered landscape of the last 4 years, the results of Bush - and Clinton - policies. 

Look at the zero growth of income among those in the middle and upper middle classes.

Look at the affordability of things we have long taken as sacred rights - a decent place to live, a firm retirement foundation, accessible higher education, solid health care, and viable transportation.

Exceptionalism? If you're exceptionally rich.

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