Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Best Medical Care System in the World?

On September 11, 2009, I made the following statement in a post related to Obama’s promises about Health Care Reform:

“The next time some right wing yahoo claims that our health care system is the envy of the world and Obama is trying to destroy it, tell him to STFU and check the facts.”

Well, Governor Bob McDonnell came pretty close last night in his response to Obama’s State of the Union address when he said:

“Most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government."

I’m sure the French would agree since, the last time I looked, the World Health Organization (WHO) rated their medical care system the best in the world. Where are we ranked you ask? We’re ranked 37th, just behind Costa Rica.

McDonnell is entitled to his opinion about the US “medical care system” but the facts appear to tell a different story.

As stated above, the US is ranked 37th in health care by the WHO. We’re just behind Costa Rica and just ahead of Slovenia. France is 1st; we’re 37th. Japan is 10th; we’re 37th. Saudi Arabia is 26th; we’re 37th. Chile is 33rd; we’re 37th. Dominica, a freaking 291 square mile island nation in the Caribbean, is 35th; we’re 37th.

WTF Bob? Does this look like we have to worry about being knocked out of the #1 position? Or do you figure the WHO is part of a Left Wing conspiracy hell bent upon destroying our health care dominance?

One caveat here. These ranking are a bit old. The last time the WHO did this was in 2000 but there's no reason to expect that the US has improved. As a matter of fact in factors being measure, such as preventable deaths, the US appears to be falling further behind.

One of the major factors taken into account in considering the adequacy of health care is the rate of preventable deaths per 100,000 people. In a 2002-2003 study of 19 industrialized nations supported by the Commonwealth Fund the United States placed dead last. Allow me to repeat that, dead goddamned last. Worse, as alluded to above, the US declined from its 1997-1998 ranking by having the smallest improvement. In those five years nations such as Finland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland and Portugal passed the US by.

Now let’s talk about infant mortality rate. You know, that thing that’s such a big problem in third world countries? Well the U.S. is ranked 46th according to the CIA World Factbook. Would you like a list of some of the 45 countries that do better? How about Cuba at 44th, Portugal at 30th, Slovenia at 19th, the Czech Republic at 14th, Hong Kong at 5th and Singapore at #1.

Or do you figure the CIA is a part of the same Left Wing conspiracy as the WHO?

Please explain to me how these statistics translate into “the best medical care system in the world?”

But you know, by now I expect Republicans to lie. But it would have been nice if the media, that so diligently reported McDonnell’s statement, also provided the facts.

There’s actually a second lie in that one sentence. The second lie is that the federal government wants to take over health care. No Bob, the federal government wants to REGULATE health care and establish standards for health insurance in the same way that it regulates air travel and establishes standards for aircraft safety. The FAA doesn’t own the airlines nor build the aircraft but it sure as hell dictates the rules and regulations under which they operate.

Why shouldn’t health care be regulated by the federal government as well? A bad health insurance policy can kill you just as dead as an unsafe aircraft. Or do you think we should de-regulate the air travel industry?

We can argue about the positives and negatives of government regulation all you want, but let’s at least be accurate about the objective here. Obama isn’t trying to “turn over” the health care system to the federal government, he’s trying to establish regulations and standards in order to (1) reduce health care costs because one thing we are undoubtedly #1 in is the cost of health care, (2) improve the access to, and the efficiency of, health care so we can move up from that 37 spot and (3) extend health insurance to the almost 50 million Americans who don’t have any. By the way Bob, when one of those 50 million gets sick, guess who ends up paying for their care? We do Bob, you and me and everyone else.

Tell you what Bob, before you come up with answers or say that the president’s answers are the wrong ones, how about you figure out what the questions are.

Ok, I’ve finished ranting and raving. I realize McDonnell had to toe the party line but that’s part of the problem. The party line has become more important than the welfare of the country because the party line has become more important than the truth.

The funny thing is I tend to agree with McDonnell’s general theme that the government is trying to do too much. Let’s leave Iraq; that should free up some time and money.

I also violently disagree with McDonnell and the Republicans about the Bush tax cuts. They were an absolute disaster and part of the reason we’re in the budget hole we’re in. They have got to go.

I don’t expect anything to change in Washington as a result of Obama’s speech. It’s going to take more than rhetoric to change things.

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