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US Life Expectancy Drops Again To Remain Worst Of All Developed Nations

December 5, 2018 38 2 No Comments

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Life expectancy in the US ticked downward again in 2017, according to a new report issued in late November 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

 

At 78.6 years, we lag all of the developed world, and our decreasing life expectancy is the worst since the Spanish Flu pandemic 100 years ago.

 

While a rise in suicide and death by overdose, especially opiods, contributes to our lack of longevity relative to other rich nations, lack of equitable access to affordable health care must also be considered as a factor.

When Health Care Is A Badly Rationed Commodity

In the US, health care has been treated as a commodity grudgingly rationed out only to those who have been deemed deserving by virtue of their ability to pay for care. One need look no further than the states with the shortest life expectancy, which are all red states whose GOP governments have blocked health care expansion for years.

We can’t separate politics out of the discussion; nor, in my opinion, should we. Government run health care in comparably prosperous nations has a long, successful history and it’s no coincidence that those countries have longer life expectancies while also spending far less per capita than we do in our country.

Beyond The Ideological Debate

But there is a significant difference between thoughtful political debate and stubbornly held ideology otherwise known as dogma.

When dogma rules, we tend to forget people’s lives are at stake. We yell about the evils of socialized medicine. “I’m not paying for other people’s health care,” we declare, ignoring the fact that we already do because our tax dollars fund public hospitals whose emergency rooms we insist uninsured people use as a viable alternative to primary care. Across the US nearly half of all medical care is delivered by emergency rooms. Patients in the red state South, one region where access to primary care is highly inequitable, have far more ER visits.

Holding fast to ideological objections to universal health care creates highly vulnerable populations who have higher mortality rates from preventable causes within our prosperous country. When willful blindness rules, people suffer and die. Are we really copasetic with rationing out mortality as a commodity?

For-Profit Health Care’s Time Has Passed

Decades of for-profit health care have given us the lowest life expectancy in the developed world and overall worse health outcomes at a higher cost than countries with universal health care. For-profit has had plenty of time and opportunities to prove it’s a better alternative to universal health care, and has clearly failed.

We put up with outrages like being forced to navigate our way through a bloated maze of private companies – often while also facing a catastrophic illness. Faceless bureaucrats decide our fate based first and foremost on profit motive. Their reflexive decision is to deny care as the financial bottom line and stockholder expectations take priority over people’s health.

And medical bills are the number one reason people in our country declare bankruptcy, with one-quarter of American adults struggling with medical payments. Employers are shifting their health insurance costs to workers, further adding to ordinary Americans’ financial burdens.

None of this needs to happen!

Not only is the data clear that universal health care gives us better results but morally we must do better for all of our fellow Americans not only those who have the money and time to access quality care. Time to end this unjust system in favor of universal health care.

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