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Commentary :: Social Welfare
Health Care in the US: Myths that are Killing Us
14 Jun 2012
Mythbusting article on US healthcare. Contains many statistics and facts useful for activists
"Of all forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and most inhumane."
—Martin Luther King

Like fairy tales? Here’s one for you: America's standard of health care is the best in the world and therefore we should be willing to pay for it (as in high insurance premiums, high drug costs, high everything medical) so that we can continue to enjoy the best health in the world.
Alas, as with most fairy tales, this one is also pure myth.

Americans spend more on health care per person than any other nation, and yet the U.S. has the highest rates of cancers for at least 10 cancer types and the highest infant mortality rate of all developed nations.

The conservative politicians say socialized medicine is bad because you might have to wait your turn for some non-emergency services, up to a few months. Why is that such a bad deal? — 50 million Americans (as of 2011) face an even longer wait than that – as in forever! -- for any services because they have no insurance. That’s up, by the way, from 43 million in 2003, which translates into about one million Americans losing access to healthcare each year.

The US spends a greater percentage of its gross domestic product on health care than any other nation. While the insurance and pharmaceutical industries may make out like bandits, the rest of us don’t get much bang for the buck, to say the least.. Consider the following:

The U.S. ranks 42 among the world’s nations in life expectancy

According to an Institute of Medicine report, about 18,000 Americans die each year unnecessarily due to lack of access to health care.

According to CIA world statistics for 2011, the US ranks 174 out of 222 nations in infant mortality rates, with nearly every other major developed nation having higher infant survival.

More than half of all people in the U.S. with below-average incomes report that it is "extremely, very, or somewhat difficult" to get medical care when they need it.

A Harvard study some years back found that about 29% of elderly Americans have a difficult time meeting their basic monthly expenses. And that was before oil prices and medical costs skyrocketed.

Due in large part to medical costs, poverty rates among American citizens aged 65 or older are climbing faster than for any other age group (from 2010 census results).

The percentage of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance has been steadily declining in the past 15 years, from about 64% in 1999 to just 55% in 2010.

The U.S. also has the greatest disparity between the health of the poor and that of the wealthy of all industrialized nations. About 63% of all uninsured Americans in 2010 made less than $50,000

Health care in the US also has a racial bias. While just 11% of all whites in the US were without health insurance in 2010, 30% of Hispanic, 20% of black, and 18% of Asian Americans were uncovered. It is not surprising that black infants, for example, have a mortality rate that is more than twice that of white children

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' reported that the out-of- pocket costs for health insurance rose by 2.6% in 2010. However, the amount of medical services received by the insured declined 1.9%.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study reveals that while the cost of healthcare insurance has more than doubled since 2001, wages of U.S. workers have risen just 34% and are now, in fact, in decline (the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income has declined about $1,100 to $49,445).

Hospital bed space in the U.S. is tighter than in most other developed countries where healthcare costs are cheaper: Greece, for example, has two times as many hospital beds per person than the U.S..

Here’s a real myth: Health insurance rates are high due to medical malpractice suit costs. Oh, really? According to stats from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, the cost of medical malpractice suits dropped to their lowest levels yet in 2010, after declining steadily over the past 15 years.

While hundreds of thousands of adverse events due to medical mistakes occur each year in the U.S., with the death rate due to medical mistakes estimated at tens of thousands, in 2010 there were just 10,195 medical malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors in 2010. This is equivalent to about 1% of all Medicare patients who sustained injuries from avoidable medical mistakes in 2010.

A report in the American Journal of Medicine revealed that medical bills have been a key factor in at least 60% of all personal bankruptcies filed in the U.S. in recent years. And, about three-fourths of these medical bill-related bankruptcies involved people who actually had health insurance.

In addition to having the highest rate of prostrate cancer in the world as a nation, the U.S. also boasts the worst prostate cancer rates in world for any single population: Black men in Atlanta Georgia, while black men in New Orleans have the second highest lung cancer rate in the world, after the Maoris of New Zealand.

The U.S. also has the highest rates in the world of the following cancers:
Colon cancer in males
Cancer of lung, breast, oropharynx, larnynx and bladder in women
For both sexes: Pancreas, thyroid, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple myeloma, myeloid leukemia.

America's five-year cancer survival rates for all types of cancer for all races: 4%
whites only 5%
blacks: 2%.

Some interesting links

This work is in the public domain
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