October 20, 2005
American Health Care Example of How NOT to Do It
When other countries in the so-called "first world" look at the American health care system, they usually gulp, and then pat themselves on their backs for not emulating us.
The Dutch are currently undertaking a reform of their own health care system and are looking at the American system to learn what not to do.
A recent example of what's wrong with our system is how General Motors has strongarmed the autoworkers union to accept substantial reductions in health care benefits, in the face of implied threats of bankruptcy. Delphi, the huge autoparts supplier, which just declared bankruptcy is another example of how health care costs have gotten out of control. Unfortunately, corporations are using this fact to shove through reductions in benefits for workers, instead of demanding that we reform health care through a major reform of our American system. They only see it as a way to cut costs. Ford and Chrysler are next in line to demand benefit cuts from their workers.
This commentary on the American system, published in the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad, describes the American health care system this way:
The latest findings by the American Census Bureau found that 45 million Americans are uninsured. This is almost one sixth of the population! At the same time, the Americans are spending more on healthcare than any other country in the industrialized world. In 2003 that number stood at 15% of gross domestic product, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OESO. That is almost twice as much as the yearly average of all other first world countries. Combine that with the fact that in America, the number of doctors, nurses and intensive care hospital beds is significantly lower than the OESO averages. Simple conclusion: less care, for less people at a decidedly higher cost.
And yet, in our country, the Republican Congress, the Republican White House, the American Medical Association, the corporate world of hospital conglomerates and pharmaceutical behemoths, are the ones who enforce and reaffirm the American health care model which is based on a belief that health care in America is a matter of free market forces, nothing more, nothing less. Leave the government out of health care and we'll all be healthier as a result. Of course, how they define "all" is the problem.