May 03, 2006


Caption: Dr. Big Jim Fuzzy Rooster, Goat Rope health policy advisor, says "Hey you dingbats--it's all about health care."

We are in the midst of Cover the Uninsured Week. Around the country, diverse coalitions concerned about the US health care crisis are staging events to draw attention to the fact that nearly 46 million Americans lack health care and as many as 18,000 die prematurely because they don't have it.

For a good overview of what this means at a personal level, check the book Uninsured in America: Life & Death in the Land of Opportunity by Susan Starr Sered and Rushika Fernandopulle. I've plugged the book before, but it's worth a look.


Meanwhile, the AP reported May 2 that:

"White, middle-aged Americans--even those who are rich--are far less healthy than their peers in England, according stunning new research that erases misconceptions and has experts scratching their heads.

Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer--findings that held true no matter what income or education level.

Those dismal results are despite the fact that U.S health care spending is double what England spends on each of its citizens."

Richer Americans were about as healthy as low income British.

Researchers were at a loss to explain the differences, although El Cabrero would suggest that guaranteeing citizens health care would go a long way towards heading off serious diseases.

Dr. Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London "offered a different explanation for the gap: Americans' financial insecurity. Improvements in household income have eluded all but the top fifth of Americans since the mid-1970s. Meanwhile, the English saw their incomes improve, he said."

Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health, although not involved in the study, suggested that financial related stress could contribute to US health problems: "'The opportunity to go both up and down the socioeconomic scale in American may create stress,' Mr. Blendon said. Americans don't have a reliable government safety net like the English enjoy, he said."


Elsewhere, in the May/June issue of Foreign Policy, Anirudh Krishna, assistant professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, writes that of all factors that can push people into poverty, "the leading culprit is poor healthcare."

The results come from a study in which Krishna and colleagues followed thousands of families in several countries (not to mention North Carolina). They found that "health and healthcare expenses are the leading cause for people's reversal of fortune."

By the numbers, among the newly poor:

*in western Kenya, 73 % cited ill health and medical costs as the cause of a decline in well being;

*in Indian Gujarat villages, 88% blamed health care issues;

*in Peru, the number was 67%.

According to Krishna, "Millions of people are living one illness away from financial disaster, and the world's aid efforts are unsuited to the challenge....governments must stand ready to prevent backsliding by providing affordable, accessible, and reliable health care."

Krishna notes that "The phenomenon exists in the rich world as well; half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are due to high medical expenses."

Krishna concludes "It's well past time that political leaders put as much effort into stopping the slide into poverty as they do easing the climb out of it."

In the US, it's well past time that political leaders put as much effort into either of the above as they do to helping the rich get richer.


1 comment:

Khazouh Baszhees said...

Anirudh must be very excited about finally getting his 15 minutes. It must have been tough growing up in the shadow of his much more famous brother Harry.