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Question: Why does the United States spend twice as much per person on health care as any other industrialized nation but achieve results on par with Mexico?

Answer: Because we refuse to invest in disease prevention, aka public health.

So, what do Republicans want to trim from the federal budget? Public health spending. Even though public health dollars pay for themselves many times over in reduced disease, time off work, disability and health care costs. And, if the press is to be believed, the Democrats are willing to negotiate on this part of health care reform in order to insure as many people as possible.

Why the short-sightedness? Votes. The GOP hopes to gather the votes of the already insured who will be happy to vote for the party that "reined in Obama-care." The Democrats hope to gather in the votes of the newly insured.

Part of the problem is folks do not always know what "public health" does for them. Public health keeps your water clean so that you don't have to worry about cholera, a big killer in the old days in urban areas. Public health wiped out small pox and has virtually wiped out polio, rabies, tetanus and a bunch of other old time killers from industrialized nations. When you invest pennies to pay for mosquito curtains to prevent malaria deaths, you are investing in public health. Pap smears have helped doctors reduce the rate of cervical cancer, a big killer in the 19th century. Back in the 19th century, one out of three of us would die of tuberculosis, too. And syphilis was the number one reason people were put into insane asylums.

If you want to know what "public health" is doing for you now, check out any war-torn or natural disaster ravaged country. Want to live like the folks in Haiti post earthquake? Eliminate all public health spending.

Under W. public health took a beating. Dollars that should have been spent on things like raising the levees in New Orleans (flood control is also part of public health) were spent instead getting tiny towns in the middle of no-where ready for an Al Qaeda "dirty bomb" terrorist attack that was never, ever going to come. We have had one Al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil. We have many hurricanes every year in this country. For several years before Katrina, those in the public health profession were talking about the risks of flooding in that city. Did the federal government listen? No.

Certain industries would also prefer that the U.S. reduce its public health spending. The biggest preventable cause of illness and death is tobacco use. Eliminate smoking and the nation's health care spending would fall dramatically. But that would also make R. J. Reynold's profits fall. Overeating  is causing an epidemic of obesity, sleep apnea, degenerative arthritis----resulting in massive spending on knee and hip replacements, cardiac surgery, medications and obesity surgery. Simply tackling America's taste for sugary beverages would save a ton of money---and help us live longer, healthier lives. But the fast food industry does not want that.

And, sadly, portions of the medical industrial complex want us to "just say no" to disease prevention. I am referring to drug companies, the manufacturers of prosthetic joints, hospitals with big ICUs and surgical suites. Their ideal economy is one like we have now----lots of disease, lots of insurance to pay for treating that disease.

One of the essential functions of the government is to pool tax dollars and figure out ways to spend them that provide a benefit for everyone at low cost. Money invested in public health helps everyone---the rich have no special immunity to cholera---at pennies to the dollar of the cost of a hospital. Make that pennies to the thousands of dollars of the cost of a hospital.

So, please, don't sacrifice our nature's health and economy for a short term political gain. If we don't do something now to make people healthier, in a few years we will see a small number of healthy young workers supporting a huge number of retired/disabled middle aged and elderly Americans. And that is going to hurt much worse than any vaccine.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Money is for spending as the alphabet is for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    writing. Making decisions on the basis of how much money is involved is like judging a poem by its length. Quantity is relevant, but only in a relative sense.
    So, it may well be that the reason our medical care and public health outcomes are so poor is because we are focusing on the quantity of money AND ignoring the fact that money is being rationed to achieve some socially negative ends. Money is being used as a tool to control, deprive and abuse, instead of being simply a measure and tally of obligations and relationships.
    Of course, authoritarians don't want to hear about obligations on the part of our agents of government, at all. From their perspective, the only function of government they want to countenance is the use of force to coerce compliance with their authoritarian demands.
    Why the U.S. is so hung up on authority and subservience is a puzzlement. One is tempted to suggest it's a remnant of having had a legally enforced slave population and an ingrained reluctance to cede the habit of segregation entirely.

    The commitment to equality and human rights has always been aspirational. But we are moving forward.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:22:04 AM PST

  •  In my experience your dig at hospitals is wrong. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama, Illinois IRV

    They make lots of money from ICUs and surgery, but most docs still push preventative care. They didn't get into medicine to make lots of money; they did it to help people.

    Our biggest hospital banned smoking everywhere on its property a few years ago. As a business decision that was stupid and pissed off many of its employees and clients. They didn't back down.

    Simlarly, I have never had a dentist who didn't tell me to floss, brush my teeth, eat less sweets, and use fluoride. If everyone did that then the market for dentists would be much reduced.

  •  If I could recommend this 10X I would (4+ / 0-)

    because the fact is that everyone who complains that he doesn't want gub'mint health care has no idea how much he already gets.

    Every morning he pours milk on his cornflakes and doesn't die from salmonella, he got gub'mint health care.  And it goes on from there.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:42:52 AM PST

  •  Having underpaid workers with no health (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, Illinois IRV, AmySmith

    care --- processing or serving our food  -- is stupid. Undocumented workers squeezed out of healthcare and going to work sick while they chop up chicken into parts -- is nothing to sneeze at.

    Spending more on for profit jails, to house inmates for decades, instead of spending less per year per person for good educations --- through college if possible --- which is still fewer years of preventive public investment.
    Short version --- cheaper to educate than incarcerate.

    Spending outrageously on wars trying to force others to do what WE want for them is stupid.    Being a real example of full democracy would lure more folks to emulate freedoms.   Even our flawed version spread the aspiration for freedom from Empires -- and gave many peoples the courage to free themselves --- in the past couple hundred years.

    Every battle we fight here for true freedom and equality for our women --- will more surely free women around the world  -- than preaching it while still paying less salary, charging more for healthcare, and defunding our ability to space childbirth at a lifesavingly healthy pace. Defunding Planned Parenthood kills women. That is not "pro-life".

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 12:29:22 PM PST

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