Sick and Tired

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Any Major League Baseball fan can tell you that the New York Yankees have the largest payroll, and that it’s gotten them pretty far. They’ve easily won the most World Series; they’re always in the playoff hunt and because they can generally outspend any other team, they get the best of the best. Call it spending to win. And as much as you might hate the Yankees (and trust me, I do), you have to admit that their system works.

So why doesn’t this philosophy of spending more to get more succeed when it comes to American health care? Why does the United States pay substantially more than any other country, more than $7,000 annually per capita, and our country ranks 37th according to the World Health Organization when it comes to health systems? Why do we as a country accept that 18,000 people in the U.S , the world’s wealthiest nation, will die this year because they’re uninsured? Why are we the only wealthy, industrialized country that doesn’t provide coverage for all of its citizens?

We are talking about more than 43 million people, and, as I noted last August, those that are insured are paying in a system where doctors make more when you get sick. As Dr. Karen DeSalvo put it: "If I don't treat your diabetes and you end up having dialysis and an amputation, the doctor makes more money. But if I keep your diabetes under control or work with you to do it, I don't make any money. It's perverse."

She’s right and I’m tired of this.

As a journalist, I struggle to remain objective about the subjects I’m reporting on, and I try to make sure that if I do have an opinion, it doesn’t sneak on to the page or screen.

Well, this is at least one occasion where I’m willing to throw out my objectivity.

This is how I feel.

I think everyone in this country has a right to health care. This is a basic human need and right, and our Constitution should be amended to include it. No one should have to go begging for health care (i.e. running to an emergency room when there is no where else to turn) and no one should go bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills or go to jail.

I think the majority of Americans want universal health care, but often they’re unfamiliar with how such a system might work, and can get turned off by words like “socialized medicine.” The fact is that many of the countries that have universal care — every wealthy, industrial nation besides us, that is — don’t have socialized medicine and citizens still have 100 percent choice in their health care.

If you’re interested in how other countries take care of its sick, or keep citizens healthy, take a look at “Sick Around the World.” This PBS Frontline segment was broadcast the other night and, without the Michael Moore melodrama, the narrator takes a good look at how five other capitalist countries provide health care.

I’d like to know what you think. Is our health system broken? Is it acceptable that that 43 million Americans don’t have health care, and that 18,000 people will die because they don’t have it? Is it time we demanded universal care from our country’s leaders?

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