What We Should Be Talking About (UPDATED)

In the debate over health care reform, we have lost sight of why we need reform in the first place and of the health care crisis that precipitated this controversy.

Of course, this confusion is by design–conservatives know we have a health care crisis and that the American people support reform, so they resort to spreading misinformation and inventing diversionary controversies to distract from the underlying problems.

So, why do we need health care reform?

Because a free clinic in Inglewood, CA, became swamped by thousands upon thousands of people in need of medical care:

On Tuesday, the Forum underwent a transformation, from sports arena to triage and treatment center. One volunteer likened it to a “giant battleship floating hospital,” with row upon row of rooms where, by next Wednesday, more than 8,000 people will have received free medical attention.

But they need more help. Volunteers – both medical professionals and non-medical helpers – are needed to help the thousands of patients lined up in the Inglewood parking lot.

[Emphasis mine]

And:

The free health care clinic at the Forum in Inglewood has hit capacity. If you don’t already have a wristband, you won’t be let in.

Officials handed out 1,800 wristbands on Thursday. Demand has been so great that people are now being turned away.

[…]

But the possibility of free dental care, eye care and other medical examinations is still drawing people to the forum.

“They said that they gave out all their numbers, but I could sit out here, and perhaps some people wouldn’t show up, and that maybe I could be seen, and I’m hoping that I can,” said local resident Richard Roberts.

About 1,500 people turned out on the first day, and there weren’t enough health care professionals on hand to see them, so they’ve been trying to play catch-up every since.

[Emphasis added]

Because even though conservatives tell us we have the best health care system in the world, sick Americans are traveling to other countries for medical care because they can’t afford it here:

A new survey funded by Your Surgery Abroad, an online directory of medical tourism, found that more than 60 percent of Americans are willing to leave the country for cheaper medical services. “As people’s budgets in America are getting tighter, they’re much more inclined to start thinking about going abroad to save money,” says Adam Nethersole, the managing director of Your Surgery Abroad.

[…]

And while more elective procedures like rhinoplasty and face-lifts used to attract consumers to exotic lands, a growing number of Americans are now traveling abroad for essential procedures like cardiology and cancer treatments.

[Emphasis mine]

Because the United States ranks 50th in the world for life expectancy:

1	Macau	       84.36
2	Andorra	       82.51
3	Japan	       82.12
4	Singapore      81.98
5	San Marino     81.97
6	Hong Kong      81.86
7	Australia      81.63
8	Canada	       81.23
9	France	       80.98
10	Sweden	       80.86

[...]
49	Wallis         78.20
          and Futuna
50	United States  78.11
51	Albania	       77.96

[List is ordered from best to worst]

Because the United States ranks 44th in terms of infant mortality:

178	Croatia	       6.37
179	Faroe Islands  6.32
180	United States  6.26

[...]

214	Norway	       3.58
215	Anguilla       3.52
216	Finland	       3.47
217	France	       3.33
218	Iceland	       3.23
219	Macau	       3.22
220	Hong Kong      2.92
221	Japan	       2.79
222	Sweden	       2.75
223	Bermuda	       2.46
224	Singapore      2.31

[List is ordered from worst to best]

Because, despite our mediocre ranking on those basic indicators, the United States spends more than any other country on Earth for health care:

HCGRAPH

HCGRAPH2

[Click on pics for larger versions]

The United States of America pays more than anyone else for health care, but we get less in return. Our system is designed to benefit the health industrial complex at all of our expense.

Conservatives want you to forget that we have a health care crisis. They want you to forget how many people are uninsured, how many people have lost insurance, how many people pay too much and get too little, how many people were denied coverage due to a preexisting condition, how many people were stripped of their coverage because they became too sick.

But these are the things we should be talking about, the things we need to talk about. Don’t fall for the diversions, the roadblocks that the right continually tosses up–we have a health care crisis, and something needs to be done about it lest more Ameicans are forced to get health care at overpacked free clinics or in countries like Singapore and Japan.

UPDATE: Digby brings us this handy graphic:

HEALTH3

So conservatives are telling us that we can’t build a health care system as good as the one they have in the UK, or France, or even Singapore. They’re saying we’re just not good enough to have the same kind of health care all those other countries get.

What do you think? Do you think the United States can’t be as good as Singapore? Do you think that the U.S., the greatest country in the world, should just settle for health care mediocrity?

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