U.S. health care still a mess


Perhaps the most dysfunctional system in America today is its medical or healthcare system. In a sense, it reminds me of the old saying about the weather: “Everybody talks about it, but no one does anything about it.”

Certainly there has been enough talk and promises of correction made regarding health care for at least the past half-century. Shortly after WWII, Harry Truman proposed a system of universal health care. The furor from the commercial medical industry was so intense that he quietly abandoned the idea.

The next effort of note was during Clinton’s first term, which ended up a political disaster when he deployed his wife Hilary to maneuver it through Congress. The effort died before it was given a chance to completely unfold.

There have been various anemic efforts since to arrive at some kind of agreement on a system of health care that would be equitable and functional to both the recipients and providers. None has succeeded.

In the meantime, other industrial countries have raced ahead, leaving us at the starting gate. We are the only industrialized country today that doesn’t have some kind of universal healthcare protection for all of its citizens.

The real irony here is that we lead the whole world in medical proficiency. Many countries depend upon us for both their know-how and the accompanying drugs. As to health facilities, Rochester’s Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins in Baltimore have no peers anywhere.

And, when it comes to manufacturing medication, we are at the top there also. Six of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world are American-based.

Yet, in this country, health care has become such a lucrative commercial industry that, to many seniors, a long-term, debilitating illness can cost an ordinary working person more than has been earned during the work years. No wonder we bristle when we read in the paper that the CEO of United Health Service receives a $140 million bonus

But, you know, the thing that bugs me even more about our health care is its blatant commercialization of prescription drugs. They spend billions of dollars telling me what to tell my doctor to prescribe for my ailment. My doctor has spent a lifetime learning what to prescribe for me and other patients, yet this commercial wants me to tell him what he should prescribe.

I am shown the image of a person enjoying a new, happy life after taking the medication. Then comes the small print in rapid-fire, warning of the possible after-affects.

That tells us a lot about what’s wrong with American health care.

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to mlittle@spokesman-recorder.com.