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The wrong health debate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 19:41

Congress could have avoided the antipathy of the American people over its increasingly farcical attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act if it was having the right health care debate.
    The wrong debate, underway now mostly behind closed doors, is about how to pay for health care—or more accurately, how to limit what government pays for health care for its citizens.
    The right debate would be about how to bring American health care up to the standard set by other well-endowed nations. It is an embarrassment, with tragic overtones, that this country that leads the world in so many ways is a straggler when it comes to the health of its people.
    The U.S. ranks 42nd among all countries in human longevity, according to the World Factbook compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency.
    The rate of infant mortality in the U.S. is worse than that of any industrialized country. American babies are twice as likely to die in their first year as babies in a number of European countries.
    American women are far more likely to die in childbirth than women in other developed nations, according the World Health Organization.
    The countries that lead the U.S. in health have in common that care is provided through national health systems paid for by taxpayers.
    The U.S. doesn’t need comparisons with other countries to see how national health care works in keeping people healthier. Its own limited version of so-called single-payer health coverage—Medicare—demonstrates it.
     After Americans qualify for Medicare at age 65, life expectancy improves to near that of European nations.
    Medicaid, another limited form of national health coverage, has proved successful in keeping Americans too poor to afford health insurance healthier. Yet one of the proposals in the ACA repeal effort is to reduce federal Medicaid spending by $772 billion over the next decade.
    Those seeking to weaken federal Medicaid say the states will fill the gap. Not only is there no assurance, or even likelihood, of that happening, some states are hostile to the very concept of Medicaid. Wisconsin, unfortunately, is an example.
    Here Gov. Scott Walker is pushing to require people applying for Medicaid to undergo drug testing—urinate in a cup to qualify for health care.
    In an op-ed piece in last week’s Ozaukee Press that should be read by the members of Congress now mired in the wrong health debate, John Torinus of West Bend wrote, “Every health plan, whether funded by a company, by the government or through an insurance policy, should provide proactive primary care.”
    Torinus is a nationally recognized expert on corporate health insurance programs, but his point that providing the means to staying healthy is the key to a healthier populace and more affordable health care applies to government programs as much as to those provided by employers.
    Universal proactive primary care is a fundamental feature of the world’s most effective national health programs. In the U.S., it is a luxury many cannot afford. Until Congress has the right health debate, that won’t change.

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