I live in a state where both US Senators, many US Congresscritters, the governor, and the state legislators in mass are lying like wall-to-wall carpets about this (and other things, but for the moment, let's go with health care.) I've written some of them. I get back smarmy garbage repeating their lies without any substantive evidence.
The US no longer enjoys the best health stats in the world. We used to. Back in the '50s, we had outstandingly good records in maternal/infant mortality, maternal morbidity, longevity (the benchmark metrics for national health, health care, and quality of life. Now we rank below all other top tier nations in all of those, below nations whose GNP and averate income are much lower than ours. Although we still have some outstandingly good hospitals for high-end procedures, and more physicians per capita than many other countries, these benefits are not available to all...we have counties without any physician or hospital, and without adequate transport to these facilities in other counties. And even the best facilities are being increasingly overwhelmed because others are being closed as "not cost-effective" for the for-profit entities. (Hermann Hospital in Houston is a good example: it's a top-level trauma center, but with the closing of UTMB-Galveston's trauma center, after Hurricane Ike last year, it's being overwhelmed to the point of impeding its quality. And new trauma centers aren't being built because they don't make money. Should make you wonder what kind of care you'll get when you're in a car wreck, shot, stabbed, or fall off a cliff.)
In my own town, we no longer have ambulance service (we had an ambulance here when we moved here--the county discontinued it a few years ago as "not cost-effective." There is no doctor's office here (that wasn't cost-effective either.) The nearest hospital (and ambulance) is 20 miles away; the ambulance may be out on another call, resulting in even longer delays. When we had a doctor and ambulance here, we saved lives by being able to provide care quickly; people survived to reach the hospital with heart attacks, respiratory problems, trauma (from gunshot wounds to toxic inhalations to snakebite) because they got skilled care within 5-10 minutes. Others survived with less costly care and disability because their problems were dealt with quickly.
Opponents of a national health care system say it would result in "rationed care." Anyone who thinks care isn't rationed now hasn't been sick or injured in awhile...because it's rationed on the basis of what your insurance will cover (if you have insurance) and what you can pay out of pocket (if you don't.) Only Congresscritters, who have the best insurance in the country, get everything paid for...everyone else has to deal with rationing. Lifetime limits on coverage--having one sick, multi-disability infant can eat up a lifetime limit in less than three years...and still need medical care. (And incidentally, for those inclined to point fingers, conceiving a child with disabilities is not a "lifestyle choice", the favorite "blame the victim" claim of the right wing. Unless you're going to advocate for abortion of all imperfect fetuses, shut up and go away.) "Network" limitations that allow people to see only the doctors and go to the hospitals in their insurer's "network"--that's health care rationing, too. (It's happened to people I know that their familiar, long-time doctor is suddenly "out of network" when an employer changes health care plans. That's rationing.) Deductibles and co-pays result in rationing, when a family can't afford the out-of-pocket expense. Exclusion of so-called "pre-existing conditions" (often determined on the most specious grounds) is rationing. Refusal to cover someone at all because of a prior vehicle accident is rationing. We have rationing NOW. We have multi-tier medical care delivery NOW. We would have less under a one-payer system totally divorced from for-profit insurance companies.
You've all heard, I'm sure, about the idiot who bellowed "Get your government hands off my Medicare!" If he really didn't know that Medicare IS a government health program, he's terminally stupid, but more likely he was just afraid that someone else might get a benefit he already had..."his" program wasn't the bad kind of national health scheme, just like the anti-abortion people who have abortions are convinced that their abortions are uniquely justified, it's the other women who are sluts.
You've all heard, I'm sure, about the flat-out lie saying that Hawking, the brilliant cosmologist, would have died in the UK because they didn't consider handicapped people worth treating--when in fact he owes his life to the National Health Service and his family didn't have to go bankrupt to pay for his continuing treatment. That, if nothing else, should convince you that all this screaming and hollering is a pile of hooey.
You've also heard, I'm sure, some ignoramus screaming that "illegal immigrants" drive up the cost of health care and would bankrupt any national system. Never mind that federal money isn't paying for their care now, and care of illegal immigrants isn't in the current plan...they keep yelling that because it's a good scare tactic. Liars, liars, and I would love to start the fires in their pants. Health care for illegal immigrants is funded by a combination of private donations and local (not federal) taxation. (Amazing how many white people are indignant about nasty illegal immigrants, without ever considering that they themselves weren't exactly legal in regards to the original inhabitants of this country....the Native Americans did not ask Europeans to move in and steal their stuff. I'm as guilty as anyone else, barring great-great-grandmother who was suspected of being part Cherokee, but at least I don't go around screaming insults at those who came later.)
You've also heard (unless you live in a very liberal state, unlike me) that it's all the fault of homosexuals and HIV, unwed mothers on welfare, homeless bums, etc, etc.
No. It's not. The high cost of medical care has several causes, and one of them is good old capitalism in action: the profit motive of for-profit health insurance companies. These companies are making enough profit to spend over a million dollars a day--every day--to lobby Congress. One lawyer of my acquaintance said at least $1.5 million. Every day. And that money came from premiums paid by people who expected that money to go for medical care. No doctor or nurse is seeing a penny of it. No hospital is using it to keep the lights on or the floors mopped. It's going to influence your Congresscritters and mine. It is, in terms of delivering health care to sick and injured people, pure waste.
Another cause is (as with everything else) inflation over the past 50-60 years. It costs more to keep the lights on, the water running, buy the necessary supplies. I've been in the business: I know that for a fact. Nobody gives doctors or hospitals a cut rate on kilowatt hours, propane, or plaster for making casts...or any other supplies.
Another cause is actual improvement in what can be done. The ambulance of my childhood was a station wagon with a litter in the back; the attendants had a little first aid. The average EMS vehicle now has a better trained crew, more supplies in it, and can do more than "scoop and run." Emergency rooms, surgical suites, and ICUs now can do more--save more lives, lessen more disability--than they could when I was a kid. Some of you may be sure that neither you nor any member of your family would ever need transport by an ambulance with a paramedic or two aboard, a trauma unit, an ICU, a CT or MRI scan, a heart catheterization, cancer treatment or any other advanced procedure that's now available--or you might nobly say "No, I don't want to spend any money on me--I'll just die..." but if so be sure to inform your family members not to call the ambulance (and tell them to be prepared to explain to the police they didn't.)
So let's go back to why other countries are healthier than this one. Their infant mortality is lower than ours because...their women qualify for prenatal care and obstetric care at delivery whether married or not. Their maternal mortality and morbidity is less for the same reasons. Poor women in these other countries have access to health care--the kind of health care that lowers the cost of health care later, by preventing deaths and disablities. If you're the kind of person who's all hot to ensure that every child conceived is born alive, then delivering quality prenatal care to every pregnant woman--and ensuring that she has quality care in the perinatal period--should be high on your list. Why is their lifespan longer than ours? Several reasons. We have many excess deaths due to inadequate diagnosis and management of chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes and colon cancer. Why? People can't afford medical care and/or the treatment. They put off going to the doctor hoping something will "go away." Even if they get the diagnosis they often can't afford treatment. The right wing screamers will of course blame the victim again--it's the fault of the victim for not knowing that he/she was going to get some condition and saving up ahead of time to pay for the test or the treatment. And anyway, he or she probably ingested something, or did something, years before that caused the condition. I hope you can see the illogic of that one. I remember wanting to dismember the nurse who assumed that a friend's cancer was caused by smoking (she had never smoked) when in fact it was a lung metastasis, not a lung *cancer* and not all lung cancers are caused by smoking anyway. (For the blame-the-victim types, I hope you get every disease you're sure is caused by someone's "lifestyle choice." And the blame you're so happy to put on others is heaped on you.)
You also find the hollering that more medical care doesn't necessarily mean better health. And that is certainly true, where someone is already getting enough medical care. You can say that some rich people (like Michael Jackson) get bad medical care even though they can hire any doctor in the world. But the fact is that many people in this country are not getting enough--or anywhere close to enough--health care. And their health would be improved by getting the health care they need. Finding out that they have diabetes before they go blind or lose a foot. Finding out they have high blood pressure before they blow out an artery and have a stroke. Finding out they have a malignant polyp before it metastasizes into full-blown colon cancer and kills them painfully. Having an ambulance near enough that when they fall off the roof while repairing it, they get to the hospital while there's still a chance of survival. Having the treatment they need available at a cost they can afford, no matter what their income. There is a basic level of health care that has proven benefits, that should be available to everyone, nationwide. There are also public health issues that should be dealt with (clean air, clean water, safe food supplies, etc.) that would in fact lower the cost of ill-health and the cost of healt-care delivery.
The bottom line is that what we have now is not working except for the people who profit from it: the health insurance companies and their Congressional cronies, for the most part. We need a single-payer, a NON PROFIT single payer, funding source for health care, and we need every single citizen--all ages, races, genders--to have comprehensive coverage. Otherwise we will continue to slip down the scale in terms of both health and health care access, looking more and more like a second-tier nation and finally a third-tier one, with a few rich people getting health care and the rest of us scabrous maggots struggling to survive on the very thin leavings.
Nothing will make the right wing quit lying...but someday, you scumsuckers, you're going to be faced with One Above who isn't fooled.