With so many people advocating for health care reform these days, it’s important to understand the predicament we’re in. The United States “health care system” is a multi-trillion dollar industry driven by profit margin. It has nothing to do with health or care.
Of course, there are caring doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals out there doing amazing work, but the health care system, like every other system in this country (educational, financial, judicial, etc.), is skewed. The United States per capita spending on health care is higher than anywhere else in the world. Why is that? It’s a bloated system with higher administrative costs, ever-increasing insurance premiums, exorbitant drug prices, unnecessary testing, misdiagnosis, and redundancy.
In spite of the excess spending, Americans are the least healthy of all high-income countries, ranking 35th out of 169, according to the latest Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index. What do the 34 countries ranking higher than America have in common? Their governments provide universal health care for all citizens. They also put more focus on a preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In contrast, United States doctors are trained to diagnose and treat illness; which usually equates to writing a prescription. For example, approximately 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The majority of doctors will prescribe pills or insulin injections for patients, even though studies have shown most people could eliminate or control their diabetes with exercise and a better diet.
An astonishing 70% of people in this country are on prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions marketing their toxins and doctors have become incentivized drug-pushers. Most other developed countries have strict regulations for prescription drugs; especially pain killers. The overprescription of painkillers–like Percocet and OxyContin–as well as synthetic opioids like fentanyl, has led to an opioid epidemic in the United States. Americans consume 80% of the global opioid supply. Equally disturbing is the fact that so many Americans are unhealthy and unable to afford health insurance or doctor visits. In the past year, Americans borrowed about $88 billion to cover health care costs.
What can the public really do? We can push harder for universal health care. Eliminating insurance companies and creating a one-payer system would lower some costs. Putting the reigns on pharmaceutical companies is another story. They are simply taking advantage of the market demand. True change will only come when we, individually and collectively, change ourselves.
Perhaps the American people should rethink their perception of health care.
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