May 17, 2007

U.S. Health System Is a 'Mess' Says NIH Ethics Expert

A leading ethicist at the National Institutes of Health this week stated that the U.S. health care system is "a dysfunctional mess" and politicians who insist otherwise look ignorant.

"If a politician declares that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world today, he or she looks clueless rather than patriotic or authoritative," Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel wrote in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Emanuel noted that Americans' average life expectancy of 78 ranks 45th in the world, behind Bosnia and Jordan. And the U.S. infant death rate is 6.37 per 1,000 live births, higher than that of most developed nations.

Whatever outdated stereotypes you may hold, these days poor people in Britain are statistically healthier than rich people in America.

These poor results are despite the fact that the U.S. spends $6,000 per person per year on health care, an amount that is more than 16% of the nation's gross domestic product and more than any other country by a large margin. The answer, Dr. Emanual recommends, is sweeping health care reform.

The solution that Dr. Emanuel's proposes involves phasing out Medicaid, Medicare as well as employer-sponsored health insurance. Instead, in the recommendation he makes, all Americans would get a basic package of insurance, everyone would choose their insurance company and could buy upgraded coverage. The resources necessary for his program would come from a value-added tax of about 10% on businesses.

What do you think? Is the US health care system "a mess", or is it the best in the world? What has been your experience?

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association; What Cannot Be Said on Television About Health Care (paid access only)

Related Reading:

Healthcare Spending in America

US Health System Getting Worse, Says Expert

Many Americans Don't Trust Leaders To Reform Health Care

US Citizens without Health Insurance Climbed to 46 Million in 2005

US: Mentally ill suffer deadly neglect


Yes. It IS a MESS. Parents who are sick and cannot go to the doctor also cannot take care of their children. Grandparents and even great-grandparents who should be retired are struggling in the workforce just to be able to make payments for medical care. This puts a burden on all of society because these are the people who used to take care of the children. They were the volunteers at schools teaching reading. They were ones helping at hospitals. And then when they themselves are ill and can't afford the medical care, it again puts a burden on the entire family.

Many people are paying "out-of-pocket" for quality medical care because the good doctors - the ones that will take the time and run the tests and actually do their jobs - are usually the ones who will NOT take medicare or even many insurances because that would not even pay for the huge overhead insurance the doctors have to pay. So the patients who cannot afford the care simply languish, suffer and die.

This is a national travesty.

Posted by: Naomi at May 20, 2007 05:00 AM

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