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Another beautiful theory brutally destroyed by ugly facts.

The right wing media is always telling us that “America has the best healthcare in the world!”

Maybe. I can’t complain-now. I’ve had excellent healthcare in the last couple of years. But that is because I live in a metropolitan area with research universities nearby AND my employer offers me a reasonably priced policy. It still costs me in my paycheck deductions and HSA contributions and as a result, I still have a retaining wall that is sitting in pieces in my driveway. I can’t pay for everything but I am eternally grateful to have had the employee healthcare benefit I had at the time I needed it. It seems kind of fair considering I barely used my benefits in my entire working life until 2019.

The thing is, my family had another health crisis for a dependent after the labs closed up and no one, and I mean NO ONE, would even look at my resume for a full time job with benefits for four solid years. I’m talking to you recruiters out there. You know who you are. I have a lost decade of work experience and 401k contributions that I now have to make up and it has not been easy to do it on an entry level salary. Anyway, I ran out of COBRA in the middle of this crisis and ended up footing the bill at $1000/month for a policy to cover the extensive treatment and hospitalization. I would do it again in a heartbeat but this is how people go broke in this country. They go through their savings paying for essential stuff like healthcare. I’m still not fully recovered financially from that disaster. Mail terrifies me. And this was a year before Obamacare kicked in. Then I moved to PA anf found that I fell through the loophole where I could have qualified for Medicaid. It was devastating. I don’t ever want to hear someone tell me that I should have magicked the healthcare premiums into existence in order to be a responsible citizen. It’s absurd.

All this is to say that there is a recent study out that concludes that of the 11 high standard of living countries in the world, the US ranks dead last in terms of quality healthcare.

We aren’t even close. The graph is embarrassing for us. There are a variety of reasons for this not least of which there are almost no cost controls. But here are the places where we need to improve:

The United States was rated last overall, researchers found, ranking “well below” the average of the other countries overall and “far below” Switzerland and Canada, the last two countries ranked above it. In particular, the United States fell at the end of the pack on access to care, administrative efficiency, equity and health-care outcomes.

J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, noted that the higher-ranking countries are more homogenous and less populated than the United States, and they benefit from a stronger societal consensus around “the place that health occupies in the social compact.”

….

Unlike other countries surveyed, the United States does not have universal health coverage. American doctors are the most likely to face difficulty getting patients medication or treatment because of restrictions on insurance coverage, the report found.

“We have almost two health-care systems in America: One for people with means and insurance, and another one that falls short for people who are uninsured or don’t have adequate insurance coverage,” Schneider said.

It’s not that Americans are not working hard enough. We should talk about time off in America in another post. It’s not that Americans are not responsible enough. Well, most of us are. I can’t vouch for the people who won’t get the Covid vaccine. That is like the pinnacle of irresponsibility on a personal and global scale.

The problem is we have not agreed as a nation that a social compact that promotes healthcare as a right, not a privilege or lucky benefit to those of us who are employed.

It really ticks me off that after years and years of paying premiums for healthcare that I didn’t need, I was suddenly considered undeserving of healthcare in 2013-2014 when my family member needed it most. I honestly cannot believe how insensitive some people were thinking that someone with part time employment was supposed to summon up the big bucks for a bare bones plan because I didn’t qualify for Medicaid or a subsidy. I can definitely sympathize with people who go bankrupt or end up with nothing to retire on. But that is the country we live in. It’s heartless.

If you can’t afford the healthcare, it doesn’t matter how good it is. You might as well be living in a third world country.

And don’t even get me started on teeth, the feature we are all judged on everyday. Dental care and orthodontics in the US definitely requires an employer based plan. That’s insane for children who desperately need care and are dying from tooth abscesses.

I’ve noticed that retail outlets and fast food restaurants are offering to round up your bill and send the little extra to a fund that pays for medical care or student tuition or food banks. We used to call these things taxpayer funded programs. But now, even though we still pay taxes and our taxes did not decrease in any significant way after the Big Orange’s tax reform act, the money no longer goes to those things we still think of as important.

That’s a problem with priorities and a completely broken social compact.

6 Responses

  1. Thank you for writing this, RD.

    My mother, a single parent who struggled to support herself and her children on minimum wage jobs with no health insurance, spent the last 20 years of her life with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. For people who don’t know, RA is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints of the body. It causes crippling and deformity of the joints, as well as affecting other parts of the body. RA is completely different than the type of arthritis that most people develop to some degree as they get older.

    My mother suffered intense pain and was wheelchair bound for two decades. If she had had insurance early on in her disease, she might have had a better outcome. She did not qualify for Medicaid, and at that time, there was no ACA. Only when she went into a nursing home was she able to get Medicaid. Then she could get dentures (RA had caused her to lose all her teeth) and receive (mostly bad) nursing home care. It was heartbreaking. I quit work to take care of her for several years before she went into the nursing home and did all I could to help her but my financial resources were limited and quickly ran out.

    It was a 20 year nightmare that ended for her when she died, but I still relive it in my dreams and my waking hours. (I have my own medical issues but this comment is about my mother, not me.) My mother deserved better from our healthcare system. We must do better as a nation to care for our sick and suffering. No one should have to go through what my poor mother endured.

    • This country is barbaric. I am so sorry your mother had to endure this completely unnecessary suffering

      • Thank you. My mother was a beautiful person. Smart, talented and witty. She had a lovely laugh and liked to sing. Big band songs and labor union songs especially. I try to remember her that way.

        “Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m stickin’ to the union!”

        • She never had a unionized job, unfortunately, but she was a strong believer in the labor movement.

  2. I’ve had 4 health plans in the last 6 months 🙄

    • That must have been fun. I’ve only had one and I’ve tried to keep everything in network. I’m so healthy it’s sickening but I still need regular exams and tests. Four plans would have plunged me into the 9th circle of hell.

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