Friday, August 7, 2009

#140 Health-Care Reform and Apartheid

Let's again be clear about this shameful reality: the USA represents the ONLY industrialized country in the civilized world that does not guarantee health care for ALL its citizens. Whether or not in the top twenty of those "Happiest Nations" of last post (USA, not), each and every so-called "First-World" nation provides some form of universal health care. Even South Africa.

Resisting, though, your urge to emigrate immediately, the South African system has problems. Especially if you're "colored"--the old Apartheid term (which by the way included Gandhi when he was there). A PBS News Hour report I saw a few months ago (and rechecked on-line) on the situation in that blighted country reminds me NOW of our Reform problems HERE. There, the well-to-do 20% of the population (99% white, I'm presuming) rely on private insurance and totally shun the public program, yet preoccupy half of the doctors and two-thirds of the nurses. Nothing has changed, in other words, post-Apartheid. The vast majority of South Africans--poor, rural blacks--still do not have access to adequate medical facilities and providers. By implication, the government has evidently not been able to spread the risks and taxes equitably enough to make public program work. And tens of thousands die each month (mainly from AIDS) for lack of treatment, not to mention preventative care. Take the Blogman's quick-quiz: Do the rich, urban, well-cared-for South African white-folk give a shit?

The analogy may be a bit strained, I'll admit, but it triggered when I saw those Americans for Prosperity goons picketing outside President Obama's appearance here in Raleigh (DM #136). Their signs (you've seen them by now) with the red palm-print logo said it all: "Hands Off MY Health Care!" Since, as I mentioned, the iconography of the bloody hand is confusing, allow me to interpret it this way, thank you: the blood is on THEIR hands. I'm sorry, these well-scrubbed, white-faced, Sunday-go-to-meetin' folk--and their ilk in Washington--are just not very good people. Selfish, un-caring--not in the least concerned about people less well-off than they, evidently. For them, the "poor" in this country--which covers a lot of ground when it comes to health care--might as well be the South African "colored."

Granted, Americans don't die by the tens of thousands each month because of lack of adequate health insurance. We hold it down to only 18,000 a year--according to a report from WHO, the World Health Organization. In addition:

People without health insurance have 25% higher mortality rates, and 59% of uninsured people with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes skip medicine or go without care--and get sicker ... The United States ranks 44th in the world in infant mortality, behind many impoverished Latin American countries. Out of 30 developed nations, life expectancy in the United states ranks 21st ...

What wonderful lethality our profit-driven health system hath wrought. Though not as efficiently as South Africa, it KILLS people.

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