Sustainability–Quality Health Care for All

nursingToday I had an appointment with the physical therapist; I had been referred there by my doctor.  I have medical insurance with Blue Cross and Blue Shield North Carolina.  I pay $310 per month, and I am told that it is a great deal.  The physical therapist informs me that my share of the bill today is $153, the remainder will get billed to the insurance company.  When I confirm the price, the pain that was in my back goes to my wallet. But I am then told that I can go self-pay and not claim through the insurance and pay $116.  I was always good at math in school, but something here doesn’t add up. I walked out in complete disgust.

The American healthcare system is broken. On average, the overall life expectancy, for someone born in 2015, fell from 78.9 years to 78.8 years. The life expectancy for the average American man fell two-tenths of a year — from 76.5 to 76.3. For women, it dropped one-tenth — from 81.3 to 81.2 years. These number decline for ethnic minorities and the poor.  While we might be forgiven for thinking, this is good, a quick comparison to other countries proves otherwise.  In 2015 the Commonwealth Fund conducted a study comparing the American health care system with ten other countries, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. They concluded that the American system was the most expensive and the least efficient, and last in the rankings. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in their studies also discovered that America had the highest infant mortality among the developed nations and the highest incidence of breast and prostate cancers.

Healthcare equality. All that Obamacare managed to do was to lower the number of people without heath care insurance.  This is about to change with an estimated 22 million people without health care coverage under the new Trump plan, in the next ten years.

America’s health outcomes are starkly unequal by class and race. According to the Health Inequality Project, the richest 1 percent of American men have a life expectancy at age forty of 87.3 years, a remarkable 14.6 years longer than the poorest 1 percent of American men, at 72.7 years. As for race, non-Hispanic white life expectancy in 2014 was 78.8 years, 3.6 years longer than for non-Hispanic blacks, at 75.2 years.3

Despite the fact that African-Americans are at a greater risk of hypertension  and diabetes ; many African Americans cannot access adequate medical care. This inaccessibility is due to a variety of factors, including a lack of health insurance, inability to pay for a health plan or they are ineligibility for Medicare/Medicaid, and yet 20% of the non-white population lives below the poverty level.  With the poverty level so high, preventative medicine and treatment is not an option and the government food programs, though they are helpful in counteracting hunger, often compound the health issues with high levels of sodium or sugar.  The situation is made even worse by an inadequate number of health care facilities, with private hospitals limiting the numbers of uninsured patients they accept or moving to white neighborhoods.

Studies pertaining to cardiac treatment reveal that only 50% of African-American men will receive coronary angiography and 33% coronary artery bypass surgery compared to an average white male.  This fact is even more troubling when you consider the fact that African American’s have an increased likelihood of suffering heart disease.  The statistics for females is even more disturbing.

Cost–The United States spent a remarkable $8,713 per person on health care in 2013, 16.4% GDP.  Compared to other countries, American health care costs are 50% higher on average. At to this the exorbitant cost of pharmaceuticals that go way above research costs

George Orwell, in his book, wrote, “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” (Orwell)[i]

The social, economic, educational and political inequality in America is at the root of problem. There has to be a major shake up in the social systems.  Sen. Bernie Sanders began the process, but one man is not enough, there needs to be a grass roots movement that will bring about a peaceful revolution. Jeffery Sachs, in his book Building the New American Economy, makes the following suggestions when it comes to health care. He states:

“First, as I suggest throughout this book, America should adopt policies to reduce income inequalities, end the over-incarceration of the poor, empower workers, clean and green the environment, and raise the social status of working-class families. Over time, such measures would help to reverse the epidemics of drug abuse, mental illness, obesity, and other diseases exacerbated by poverty and low social status.

Second, America should move toward universal health care coverage through public financing, as in Canada and Europe, with health providers (both private and not-for-profit) supplying coverage on the basis of capitation rather than fee for service. Capitation would encourage and enable health providers to offer supportive services (nutrition counseling, social support, health advising) that help to prevent, treat, and manage chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and adult-onset diabetes.

Third, the government should move to a system of price ceilings for medicines under patent through rational guidelines that balance the incentives for R&D with drug affordability and access. Economists have long argued that today’s patent law does not do an adequate job of balancing the needed incentives for innovation with the assurance of access to affordable medicines. The situation became intolerable after the advent of Medicare Part D, with the government now spending vast sums for drugs and drug companies grossly abusing the system by setting outrageous markups on the cost of production.” (Sachs)

People have got to wake up and realize that not everything is great in America.  In the World Happiness Report, 2016, America ranked thirteenth. We don’t have good health care, in fact, we suck at a lot of things.

As Bob Dylan once wrote:

“Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.” (Dylan)

Dr. Terrence Threadwell.

Dr. Terrence Threadwell is Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies, American Public University. Director of the Institute for Progressive Pentecostal Studies and Board Member Pax Pneuma, Pentecostal Peace Fellowship.

 

 

[i] “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 7 Jun. 2017. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/all-animals-are-equal–but-some-animals-are-more-equal-than-others>.

 

Sachs, Jeffrey D.. Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable (Kindle Locations 1052-1053). Columbia University Press.

Dylan, Bob. The Times They Are A-changin’. Columbia, 1964.

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