U.S. health care fabulous — if you can afford it

Posted June 17, 2009, at 7:43 p.m.

The freedom of expressing one’s opinion is a cornerstone of our democracy. However, using false information like Ike Morgan in his June 3 OpEd “America’s health care system already fabulous” is sadly misleading, especially when an increasing number of citizens end up unable to get the medical care they need.

The only truth in that piece is that we benefit from the greatest health care advances in human history. But, even then these advances are only available to Americans who can afford it, not to all citizens.

Had Mr. Morgan simply done some research, he would have discovered disconcerting facts. Had he checked, for example, the Commonwealth Fund’s latest report, www.commonwealthfund.org, he would have seen that while the mortality amenable to health care went down from 115 to 110 per 100,000 in the U.S. from 1997-98 to 2002-03, it went down from 76 to 65 in France — and for half of the cost in this so-called country of “socialized medicine.” Had he read the World Health Organization’s report at www.who.int, he would have seen the U.S. health care system ranks number 37 worldwide.

This low ranking means 36 other countries in the world are able to provide better care at a lower cost than the U.S. This ranking means that all these countries are also providing the medical services unavailable 60 years ago that Mr. Morgan mentions. In the case of France, the top-ranking country, most advanced procedures are available to every citizen.

The U.S. health care system is not fabulous. It can sometimes be excellent, but it is for sure the most expensive in the world. The reasons? A well-documented OpEd by Dennis Chinoy in the June 6-7 BDN OpEd sheds some light on this complex problem.

The millions of immigrants Mr. Morgan mentions do not come to this country for our failing health care, but for a job and the human rights guaranteed by our Constitution: the right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Not for medical benefits to which they have no right if they are illegal, and cannot afford if they are le-gal. In fact, some Latinos are returning home, probably in part, because health care in Colombia, Costa Rica and Chile rank higher than the U.S. Conversely, an increasing number of Americans are forced to go to foreign countries for medical care because they cannot afford treatment, surgery, or even a simple doctor’s appointment in this country. We speak from experience, having been treated in Europe most of our lives, including sophisticated cancer surgery.

Mr. Morgan tries to scare us by using the “S” word — as in “socialized” health care. Does he realize that America already has been using a socialized system since FDR gave us Medicare? Would he go without Medicare if he was not already covered by a generous health plan? Medicare is a system paid into by employees and employers, and not paid into by the government. It is only administered by the government through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

There is a horrible, we repeat, horrible health crisis in the U.S. How can the wealthiest country in the world leave uninsured millions of men, women and children? None of these people can profit from the wonderful innovations that Mr. Morgan cites in his column although people in 36 other countries can. Such a situation is a travesty of the worst kind, which should no longer be tolerated.

Gerard Tassel, a native of France, is a retired businessman and former trade councilor for France in northern New England. Anita Tassel, his wife, is a retired teacher. They spent much of their lives in France and now live in Bangor.

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