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Should The U.S.–The Sickest Country In The Developed World–Shred Its Safety Net?

Posted Jan 11 2013 4:56pm

From Your Health Journal…..”A great article today on MSNBC by Geoffrey Cowley regarding the health of Americans stating if federal health spending continues to expand at its recent pace, it will eventually swallow the economy. For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages than people in almost all other high-income countries. The warning signs have been here for years, as many have warned us that obesity (and being overweight) will have a major impact on the economy – and the country cannot afford this right now. Please visit the MSNBC site (link provided below) to read the complete article. Mr. Cowley is an excellent writer, and nails this on the head.”

From the article…..

As we careen from the fiscal cliff toward a dispute over the debt ceiling, even moderates have been adopting the spirit of austerity. “Entitlement reform” is the slogan of the season, and health care programs are high on the list of likely targets. The case for action is compelling: if federal health spending continues to expand at its recent pace, it will eventually swallow the economy. But there’s more than one way to approach the challenge. Should we focus on cost (cut payments and eligibility to balance the books)? Or should we set our sights on value (finding ways to buy more health for our money)? That’s a big question, so we’ll chip away at it between now and the next congressional mêlée. Let’s start with a more basic question. Is the U.S. over-committed to social welfare? Is the government doing more than it can afford to support public health?

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) puts the question into context by comparing U.S. rates of death and disability to those of 16 “peer nations” including Canada, Australia, Japan and the countries of Western Europe. Despite our top-tier medical expenditures, we trail the rest of the developed world on virtually every measure of health and well-being. “For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages than people in almost all other high-income countries,” the authors observe. “This disadvantage has been getting worse for three decades, especially among women.”

By international standards, our lives are not only short but also brutish–marred by higher rates of injury, homicide, teen pregnancy and drug overdose, not to mention obesity, heart disease and chronic lung disease. The report notes that our “longstanding pattern of poorer health…is strikingly consistent and pervasive over the life course–at birth, during childhood and adolescence, for young and middle-aged adults, and for older adults.”

The problems extend far beyond our health care system. True, 49 million Americans lack basic health coverage, and suffer demonstrably for it. “Compared with people in other countries, Americans are more likely to find care inaccessible or unaffordable and to report lapses in the quality and safety of care outside of hospitals,” according to the report. But the research implicates a host of other factors as well. Our fast-food cuisine makes over-eating the national default. Our car-centered communities discourage physical activity. Our gun laws foster lethal violence. And our high rates of poverty, especially among children, leave millions feeling hopeless and excluded.

To read the full article….. Click here

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