Anne Arundel Indivisible Healthcare Coalition, Take Action AAC, and Action Annapolis invite you to their healthcare forum Patients Losing Patience. The forum, which is open to everyone, will take place Sunday, September 10, from 3 to 5pm at the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center, 1101 Smithville Drive, Annapolis. Please attend to learn how we can work together for better healthcare for all.
We Americans pay more for healthcare than any other country in the world. According to the Organisation for Economic and Cooperative Development, Americans spent $9,892 per person on healthcare in 2016, more than twice the average of other developed nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. That means a typical family of four spends $39,568 annually for healthcare in the United States, where the average annual household income is $55,775. It is clear that without assistance from an employer or the government, most Americans could not pay for their healthcare.
Although we pay the most for healthcare, we do not get the best care, nor do we have the best health outcomes, as evidenced by several markers. The United States ranks 31 in life expectancy, behind Chile and Costa Rica, according to the World Health Organization. A United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report ranked the United States number 43 in infant mortality. Moreover, the United States has the highest rate of obesity in the world and the highest rate of diabetes in the developed world.
These costs are so exorbitant because we pay more for the very same healthcare products and services than any other country, and not because we use more products and services. The price of prescription drugs, for example, is higher in the United States than in any other country. According to OECD Health Statistics 2013, “Prices in the U.S. for brand-name patented drugs are 50 to 60 percent higher than in France and twice as high as in the United Kingdom or Australia.”
In addition, physicians in the United States make more money than their counterparts in almost all other countries. A May 17, 2014 New York Times article, however, pointed out that “the biggest bucks are currently earned not through the delivery of care, but from overseeing the business of medicine. The base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries.”
Unlike all other developed nations, the United States does not provide universal healthcare coverage, leaving some citizens without access to it. Due to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), more Americans have health insurance than ever before. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 9.1 percent of Americans—29 million people—still lack any form of health insurance.
Not having health insurance has consequences. A study conducted at the Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance found that “working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts.” Moreover, a Harvard University study, “Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007” showed that medical expenses accounted for approximately 62 percent of personal bankruptcies in the United States. Interestingly, the study showed that 72 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy due to medical expenses had some type of insurance, but their coverage was insufficient.
All these facts and figures point to one thing: the American healthcare system is immoral. We pay more for healthcare than any other country in the world, and yet we do not receive the best healthcare. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, millions of Americas get sick, go bankrupt, and die simply because they do not have adequate insurance. There is no moral argument that can justify this. We can and must do better.
Many politicians would like you to believe that the solution to the U.S. healthcare crisis is complicated. It is not: every other country in the developed world has solved the problem with universal healthcare. We can too. All we need are enough people to demand that politicians enact laws that meet the needs of citizens and not the insurance, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries that pour millions of dollars into politicians’ campaign coffers.
Many politicians would also like you to believe that free-market capitalism can solve all our healthcare problems. There is not one country in the world that has achieved universal healthcare via free market capitalism. Universal healthcare has only been achieved via careful market regulation. Otherwise, insurers can choose to cover who they want at any price, and providers can choose to charge what they want. Competition among healthcare providers has never and will never drive down prices to the level that everyone can afford. In a free-market system, the poor, the sick and the elderly all lose.
Finally, many politicians would like you to believe that some citizens do not want health insurance or want limited insurance. In fact, millions of Americans who probably could afford it under the ACA (and there are some who cannot, as the ACA is not a perfect solution) have chosen not to buy insurance. These people, in general, are betting that their health is good and will remain good without the need of medical intervention. How many of these people, however, will voluntarily die and/or lose all their savings in the event of a life-threatening illness or injury? People, when they are injured or sick, want quality healthcare. Moreover, with access to preventative healthcare, fewer people become ill, which drives down the financial burden of healthcare.
As part of the healthcare forum Patients Losing Patience, speakers will explore systems throughout Anne Arundel County, the state of Maryland, and the United States. Presenters will offer alternatives that better serve citizens’ needs, including Medicare for All. You’ll also hear about the personal experiences of people who have navigated the local healthcare system. In addition, everyone in attendance will be encouraged to ask questions and voice their opinions.
Most important, citizens will learn how to demand change to ensure affordable healthcare for all. Together, we can make it happen.
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