Health Care Reform that is Proven 

Published Circleville Herald, 6 April 2009

A good friend of mine for over 20 years just lost his job. Tom and his family are now without health insurance and one illness from catastrophe and bankruptcy. Tom is your neighbor here in Circleville.

Tom is no loser, as Rush Limbaugh likes to label so many. Tom began as a line production worker, advancing himself by drive and learning into quality management and worker safety. Tom was able to purchase a modest home for his family. Tom and his wife have done wonders on improving the place. Tom is also a recognized leader in his church and very active in volunteer community work. Tom is a good American. His employer, dependent on automobile manufacturing, had to let him go in the current economic downturn.

Adding genuine danger to insult and injury, Tom, his wife and children are now abandoned by our U.S. healthcare system. He joins the rapidly growing ranks of 48 million others. I see Tom and the other uninsured everyday in the emergency department, the only place in America where you can go when every other healthcare provider turns you away. Despite the callous words of George Bush: “People have access to health care in America. They can just go to the emergency room,” the ER cannot do it all. Mr. Bush and his fellow free-market ideologues sound like Marie Antoinette, shortly before she lost her head. Upon being told the French peasants had no bread, Marie tossed off," Let them eat cake!”  The fact is that the emergency department cannot take care of your long term needs for diabetes care, hypertension, screening mammograms, an asthmatic child. The emergency department cannot pay your bankruptcy-inducing bills for just one brief hospitalization. 

The institute of Medicine estimates there are 22,000 excess deaths yearly in the U.S. directly attributable to lack of health insurance. The U.S. ranks dismally compared to other industrialized nations on almost every single measure of health system performance: life expectancy, infant mortality, cancer screening and survival, child mortality, the list goes on. At the same time we pay two to three times as much per capita for healthcare as all these other nations that outperform us.

The reason for this huge cost for an underperforming system: The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that clings to the immoral ideology that health care is a commodity, just like plasma screen televisions and big SUVs, to be sold to those able to ante up the cash. The fact is the that for health care, the free-market has been an absolutely dismal, costly, unredeemable and immoral , inhumane failure.

America’s Health Insurance Plans ( AHIP) and the pharmaceutical companies, entities we shall eventually all recognize are in the same league as AIG and the other Wall Street speculative financiers who have brought us so much ruin, are advancing health care reform that protects their profits. AHIP and Big Pharma proposes that we funnel your tax dollars into subsidies for their companies, executive bonuses included. Call your legislators and President Obama, tell them we need healthcare reform that is a proven world-wide performer in protecting your health, and your pocketbook. Support single payer universal health care, HR 676 “ Healthcare for all Americans” and SB 703, the “American Health Security Act”. 

Brad Cotton MD, Emergency Physician. Member, Physicians for a National Health Program