Monday, August 10, 2009

#143 Health-Care Reform and "Health"

For some reason this ancient pagan (no, not me) seemed inordinately concerned about the health of his fellow human beings:

A wise man or woman should consider that Health is the greatest of human blessings, and by their own Reason derive benefit from their illnesses. (Hippocrates, "Regimen of Health" 400 BC)

On the other hand, the wise Hannah Green--of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977) fame--got it right, too, with "Health is not simply the absence of sickness."

The United States is an unhealthy country by any measure. Even in the "absence of sickness," millions upon millions of Americans, me included, are haunted by the FEAR of un-health and how they're going pay for it. That's mental illness enough for any mortal man or woman. A "pre-existing condition," if you will, for a "healthy" majority of this country.

First of all, the USA is literally sicker than 36 other countries around the the world in terms of statistical "medical outcomes." According to that WHO report mentioned earlier (DM #14o), our health-care system ranks below the likes of Colombia and Portugal, who spend far less on health care than we do. Even our unborn are unhealthy: we rank 44th in infant mortality. A disgrace.

But we are also sick at heart. For multitudes of Americans, if it isn't illness and death, it's bankruptcy. Here's a statistic from Health Care for America Now (.org) that should strike fear in the staunchest free-marketer: One of us goes bankrupt every 30 seconds in this country due to medical expenses, and 75% of them have insurance! Here are some of our fellow-citizens who live in unhealthy fear and trembling every day:

  • 47 million are uninsured;
  • 41% of Americans with incomes of $20,000 to $40,000 have had only intermittent health coverage since 2001;
  • 53% with incomes under $20,000 lack health insurance.
  • And woe unto those millions who punch the clock--they simply can't afford it. The average health-insurance premiums for a family of four come to over $13,000, which exceeds the annual gross-income of a full-time, minimum-wage worker, and out of reach for most who earn more.

Hippocrates also famously said that the physician's first duty to his patient is to "Do no harm." We're guilty in this country of doing harm even before a patient reaches patient-hood. Not to mention then ... and long after.

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