Thursday, August 13, 2009

The United States Lags Far Behind Many World Countries in Medical Care : It is a Disgrace : A National Health Care System Should Be Inevitable

We posted previously about this topic at LawPundit but add a bit more here, as we just received an email from David Axelrod, Senior Adviser to the President of the United States, about the new White House Reality Check on Health Insurance Reform. Check it out.

Axelrod writes (we have added some additional formatting to enable easier reading):
"This is probably one of the longest emails I've ever sent, but it could be the most important.

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.


As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, "where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed."


So let's start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you'll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.


Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what's below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.


Thanks,

David


David Axelrod

Senior Adviser to the President


P.S. We launched www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we've just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it out:


HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM: REALITY CHECK


8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

  • Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
  • Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
  • Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
  • Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
  • Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
  • Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
  • Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
Learn more and get details: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/health-insurance-consumer-protections/

8 common myths about health insurance reform

  • Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It's a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
  • We can't afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
  • Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It's a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
  • Vets' health care is safe and sound: It's a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
  • Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It's a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
  • Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It's myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
  • You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
  • No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.
Learn more and get details: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck
http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck/faq

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now
  • Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage/index.html
  • Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hiddencosts/index.html
  • Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/women/index.html
  • Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hardtimes
  • Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/helpbottomline
  • The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction
  • Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction/diminishing/index.html
  • The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/assets/documents/CEA_Health_Care_Report.pdf"

Our LawPundit take on this topic:

One of the areas in which the United States is unquestionably behind the rest of the civilized world is in medical health care. Already in the year 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the US health care system a comparatively disastrous 37th in the world, just behind Costa Rica.

A British Medical Journal report ranked America 16th in the world in terms of health care.

As the New York Times wrote subsequently in 2007, things have gotten worse since then:
"Many Americans are under the delusion that we have 'the best health care system in the world,' ... the disturbing truth is that this country lags well behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care....

More recently, the highly regarded Commonwealth Fund ... ranked the United States last or next-to-last compared with five other nations — Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom — on most measures of performance, including quality of care and access to it....

Insurance Coverage. All other major industrialized nations provide universal health coverage, and most of them have comprehensive benefit packages with no cost-sharing by the patients. The United States, to its shame, has some 45 million people without health insurance and many more millions who have poor coverage....

Fairness. The United States ranks dead last on almost all measures of equity because we have the greatest disparity in the quality of care given to richer and poorer citizens....

Healthy Lives. ... We rank near the bottom in healthy life expectancy at age 60, and 15th among 19 countries in deaths from a wide range of illnesses that would not have been fatal if treated with timely and effective care.

Life and Death. ... In an eight-country comparison, the United States ranked last in years of potential life lost to circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes and had the second highest death rate from bronchitis, asthma and emphysema.

Top-of-the-line care. ... The main goal should be to reduce the huge number of uninsured, who are a major reason for our poor standing globally."
Let us then turn to 2008 and some of the most up-to-date figures in the freely downloadable 2008 America's Health Rankings (TM) - ©2008 United Health Foundation. All Rights Reserved - a joint effort of United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention. The Rankings report was funded entirely by United Health Foundation based on the following sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American Medical Association, The Dartmouth Atlas Project, Trust for America’s Health, and the World Health Organization. Project by Arundel Street Consulting, Inc., St. Paul, Minn. and Design by Aldrich Design, St. Paul, Minn.

The Findings of those Rankings point to a core American health care problem:
"... despite spending more than any other country on health care, the United States continues to slip further behind other countries...

while the U.S. is spending more on total health care when compared to other countries, the country is getting less access, patient safety, efficiency and equity."
One of the biggest problems in modernizing American health care is that the taxpayers who have health care are screaming that they are going to have to pay for the medical care of those who do not have health insurance currently.

This is a seemingly reasonable argument made from the point of view that everyone who "pays" for his or her health costs or health insurance pays the full price for medicial treatments and services, but that argument fails, for the following reasons.

All of the health products and services to which anyone in society is entitled by virtue of money in their pockets are blessings that have been in creation over millennia by all of human society, created by countless individual efforts as well as by the various institutions that man has developed over millennia. The community of man has created them - we are ALL the freeloading benefactors of all of the technologies that our predecessors have created for us.

For example, antibiotics that can save the life of a rich man or woman cost a pittance as compared to their life-saving worth. How much would you pay for antibiotics if we measured them at their actual full value - how about, say, one-half of a patient's net worth, would that be a fair price to save your life?

The costs of innovation and of the development of numerous medications have in the course of years been spread out over the mass of citizens and institutions and that is the only reason that medications are as relatively cheap as they are, when compared to the benefit that many of them produce. The same applies to all of the medical wonders that are available to anyone today, not to mention the education and training of doctors and medical personnel, etc., as well as medical research, a lot of which is publicly financed, funded or supported, also by the very same working taxpayers who themselves may not be able to afford adequate health insurance coverage.

No one pays the "full value" of the medical services from which they benefit. Full payment would involve reimbursement of everyone in history and in the country who has contributed to put present medical health care at the level at which it is now found. Impossible.

Those who scream that they are subsidizing the health care costs of others forget that their own health care has been vastly subsidized by the societal system as a whole and that they are the selfish beneficiaries of the work of countless other humans who they can not and never will properly reimburse.

More than that, everyone living in a free nation such as the United States has countless other millions to thank, who founded the country and made it grow, who, when needed, fought in wars of liberty to create the free system from which every citizen prospers, or who otherwise contributed to the building of a great nation and to the creation of its working infrastructure.

Anyone crying that he now has to help others by giving some of his wealth to the common weal does not understand his historical debt to the past and to humanity in general. It is selfishness and ingratitude at the highest level. YOU did not make America's wealth but America made YOUR wealth.

America, the fact that there is no national provision of basic health care for all of our citizens is a disgrace.

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