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Best Health Care In The World?  Really?



All of us whom nature has condemned to live in exile on this earth admit that mortal people's lot is unhappy enough, so that men should not of their own contribute to their miseries.  Yet thus it is...  The great majority of all evils from which we suffer derives from man himself."

Johann Peter Frank



The ancient Romans had this saying that translates into: Greed is a root of all evil. We should be thankful for having such maxims passed down to us. It is a pity, though, that we do not heed any of the ancient wisdoms. It would save us many disappointments, and time.

Recently, an interesting comment appeared in Scientific American. It followed the usual pattern, but presented a slightly different angle of view. The Editorial Board expressed its opinion as to why the American health care is so expensive, not being the best at that. The article entitled "Physician, Heal the System" begun with the following paragraph:

"Two years ago you could scarcely open a newspaper without reading about health care, and you might be forgiven for thinking (or hoping) that the debate was over. Yet the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was signed into law in March 2010 offers more concrete plans for reforming the health insurance system than for reforming the health care system. It will change how we pay for health care but not how much we pay—and that is a problem. Government actuaries have calculated that total health care spending by the public and private sectors will grow from $2.7 trillion (17.4 percent of GDP) in 2011 to $4.6 trillion (19.6 percent) in 2019. "

Then, the short comparison of the vital statistics, length of life expectancy follows for the countries that spend much less. "Compared with the average American, the average citizen of France or Israel lives three years longer, the average Australian four years, and the average Japanese five years."

This is the unalienable truth. The US lags behind all industrialized countries in the effectiveness of its heath care. The interested reader can find facts in the statistics and health indicators by referring to the World Health Organization's (WHO) publications which are available on-line.

As in most of similar articles, the analysis of the ailed care system in America follows. There are a few of reasons mentioned, namely fragmentation, fee-for-service system, and procedural effectiveness. As this all is true, this, and most other publications seem to be missing one important element: insatiable appetite for money on the part of the insurance companies, and of course care providers, the institutions that employ doctors, nurses, health technicians, and yes, administrators.

Both, the insurers and the providers developed the perfect business model in the US, that bilks the society. There seems to be an inexhaustible source of profits to be made on human suffering and misery. The prices of medical services and devices are not based on their true cost and a reasonable profit. Not even on what the market can bear. They spiral up out of control, propelled by greed and insensitivity of the big companies. By realizing those immense profits, those institutions are growing bigger and by mergers, acquisitions, and other devices, create conglomerates that are aimed to monopolize the health care market. There is no competition anymore, if there it should be. Remember the times when a country doctor took for his services what you could afford? And it was a house call.

The overwhelming greed and relentless pursuit of profits is at the root of the health care problem in our country on one side, the “business atmosphere” in which the industry operates and is allowed to make unlimited profits, on the other. The former one is created by the Legislation, by the same Representatives that we vote for every two years. This legislative branch is unfortunately corrupted to its core by lobbying. The people that we elect and entrust with the task of representing us are working pretty much for themselves 65% of their time, giving ear to the big business. The health care situation in the US is nearly disastrous. Fees for services are unreasonable. People are loosing life savings, filing for bankruptcy. Can anything be done?

Most of the developed countries have well functioning systems that benefit their citizens. The costs are a fraction of those in the US, and general health of their population is much better than ours. It will take the effort of all of us to direct this runaway train on the proper track. The issues of a state run health system may invoke some fears in the less informed. Think of it this way; won’t you be better served by somebody who has no interest in making money on your suffering, than by a greedy, profit seeker. Even if the costs are the same.