Assessing Americas health care system

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Practicing Medicine without a License! The Corporate Takeover of Healthcare in America By Don M. Sloan, M.D. Ashland, Oregon, 2006 paperbound, $16.95, 305 pages

In this book, Don Sloan, M.D. argues the case for a corporate-free, universal health care system that would cover every American. The need for health care has never been greater, and the rapidly deteriorating for-profit health care in the U.S. has never been worse.

Sloan describes the current health process in which doctors have become “simply the middleman between the sick and vulnerable and the insurance companies seeking to elicit whatever gains were possible from this suffering.”

U.S. corporations (including nearly all of the mainstream media) tout American health care as Number One—clearly untrue because our health care ranks behind every industrialized nation.

For-profit health care generates enormous costs in the U.S. and accounts for 14 percent of our Gross National Product (GNP). Great Britain’s health care costs are 6 percent of GNP and Canada’s are 8 percent. Both have universal health care systems.

Health care availability is another serious concern. On average, the U.S. has one physician for every 320 persons. UN health organizations have set the ideal ratio as one physician to 180 persons, a standard met only by Israel and Cuba. In the U.S., physician to patient ratios fluctuate widely, ranging from 1 to 40 in affluent neighborhoods to a depressing 1 to 1,500 in areas like the rural South. Health care is largely based on a patient’s economic means or lack there of. Nearly 47 million Americans lack health insurance.

The American Medical Association, which represents a declining number of private practice physicians, continues to oppose progressive reforms. The pharmaceutical industry, which has historically gouged Americans with its high prices and profit margins, has fiercely resisted change. Private physicians are being replaced by a transformation of doctors into wage laborers for the health insurance industry.

Sloan charges that public health care programs such as Medicare for the elderly are in the crosshairs of the Bush administration, which seeks to destroy them. The Plan D Medicare program for prescription drug prices is a massive giveaway to the pharmaceuticals with provisions that prohibit the government from negotiating drug prices.

The pharmaceuticals have long happily taken large-scale government funds for the research and development of their products, and they are repaying this gift with the deep gouging of drug prices for our elderly.

Finally, the extremely high cost of health care is hurting the profit margins of some American corporations. Sloan explains that health care costs add $1,600 to the cost of manufacturing each car at Ford Motors, and the situation is similar at other auto producers. In Canada, auto producers have absolutely no extra health care costs because Canada’s universal single payer system covers medical care for 99 percent of the population.

Increasing costs and cuts in government programs are weighing heavily on the shoulders of lower and middle income Americans. Sloan cites the shocking statistics of over one-half of bankruptcies filed by Americans are due to medical debt, and most of these persons were insured at one time. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that allows its citizens to go bankrupt for medical reasons. This outrageous policy, with stricter bankruptcy laws, reduces medical debtors to the status of near-indentured servants.

Sloan exclaims, “Health care is not a privilege. It is a right.” And if necessary, this right should be protected by a constitutional amendment. The author calls out for mass grass-roots activism to effect the necessary change. One could start by obtaining this book, reading it, and passing it on.