Popular Economics Weekly
This is a quiz. What country had the second-highest mortality from noncommunicable conditions — like diabetes, heart disease or violence — and the fourth highest from infectious disease? Also, from adolescence to adulthood to old age, what country has the highest chance of dying an early death?
The United States of America—where else, since the U.S. is the only developed country in the world without universal health care? A recent New York Times Business Insider article by Eduardo Porter highlighted a recent study by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of 16 of the richest countries in the world that set out to assess our nation’s health.
The results are devastating, and show how far America has fallen behind in caring for its citizens. And the new Senate version of repeal and replace Obamacare strips even more benefits and money from Obamacare
This problem should have nothing to do with ideology, and whether access to affordable health care should be a privilege or a right. Too many Americans are dying of drug overdose and violence. Too many Americans suffer from depression, a major cause of drug abuse.
And too many Americans are obese, making them less productive and more prone to accidents in the workplace. “The United States ranks in the bottom fourth among the 30 industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of days lost to disability,” says Porter. “Women will lose 362 days between birth and their 60th birthday; men about 336. Mental health problems like depression will account for most.”
But all of these statistics hide the real problem—rampant income inequality. The U.S. ranks 106th of the 149 countries in income inequality as ranked by the CIA’s World Factbook; with a Gini inequality index of developing countries like Peru and Cameroon. Finland and the Scandinavian countries are at the top of equality, Germany and France are 12th and 20th, respectively. The higher the index, the greater the gap between wealthy and poorer citizens of a country’s population.
And the poorer the person, family, or community, the more prone to illness and drug use is that person, or family, or community. This is where the Senate version of repeal and replace Obamacare hurts the most—in the poorer red states that voted for President Trump.
“What’s more, the United States’ higher tolerance of poverty undoubtedly contributes to higher rates of sickness and death,” says Porter. “Americans at all socioeconomic levels are less healthy than people in some other rich countries. But the disparity is greatest among low-income groups.”Finally contributing to our health crisis is the incredible amount of violence—both due to guns (33,000 per year killed by guns), workplace accidents, and drug abuse, that a universal health care system could treat via mental health coverages as well.
In other words, there are much higher costs because we don’t have a healthy healthcare system and we the citizens are paying those costs, rather than those that are pushing the $1.1 trillion in tax cuts that Obamacare utilizes to pay for many of those costs.
Harlan Green © 2017
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