Health care system sick and getting sicker

A New York Times reporter introduced us last week to Tammy Yancey, a $9.50-an-hour gas station attendant for Sam's Club in Pinellas Park, Fla.

Walmart, which also operates Sam's Club, had just announced sweeping health insurance cuts and premium increases for its one million employees.

Those increases included a steep penalty for employees who smoke.

Yancey, a smoker who earns $12,000 a year, would see her annual health insurance premiums more than double to $3,325, about a quarter of her income.

"I really can't go without insurance," she told the Times, "because I have a heart problem.

Yancey epitomizes the rapidly emerging health care crisis in the U.S.:

* A nation of people who cannot or will not take common-sense measures to protect their own health;

* Employers who are increasingly unwilling or unable to foot the bill for ever-more-expensive health care; and

* State and federal governments increasingly swamped in medical bills for the sickest people, the poor and the elderly.

The result is a health-care system that is, in the words of a leading health policy research foundation, lagging further and further behind other industrialized nations in quality, efficiency and access to care.

The Commonwealth Fund reported last week that Americans are far more likely to die than the citizens of other countries from preventable or treatable conditions: bacterial infections, screenable cancers, diabetes and complications from surgery.

The U.S. recorded 96 preventable deaths per 100,000 people in 2006-2007. France, meanwhile, reported 55.

In important areas like controlling blood sugar in diabetes patients, newborn mortality and childhood obesity, the U.S. continues to trail other national systems.

And the situation has likely worsened since then. In 2010, 81 million Americans were either uninsured or underinsured at some point in the year. That's up from 65 million in 2003.

"The U.S. ranks last out of 16 industrialized countries on a measure of mortality amenable to medical care," according to the report.

The lamentable conclusion: "As many as 91,000 fewer people would die prematurely if the U.S. could achieve the leading country rate."

Except for improvement in a few select areas, like hospital-acquired infections, the U.S. is going in the wrong direction.

In Texas, for instance, more than 25 percent of its citizens are now uninsured. A third of its children did not receive an annual physical or a teeth cleaning in 2007. One in five senior citizens ends up back in the hospital within a month after a major procedure.

By almost any measure, this system is broken. Meanwhile, the only significant attempt to change that picture, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court by 23 states.

And in an election year, there seems to be little interest in revisiting the issue.

That's inexcusable.

In another two years, will we be even further behind other similar countries?

There's little to indicate otherwise.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Glen Lee's picture

Another Useless Article

Again the Journal has fail its readers. You take a NYT as gospel? To me if write something thats negative then you should write solutions.So far as I have read this article as an opinion I really read it as a rant with no substance. Here we have another Liberal proclaiming something with little proof, example: The result is a health-care system that is, in the words of a leading health policy research foundation, lagging further and further behind other industrialized nations in quality, efficiency and access to care. Who is this research foundation?? anyone can put anything into an article to justify their wrtings.
Plain and simple Journalism from Al Gore!

Steve  Dosh's picture

Health care system sick and getting sicker

. .. It's just too b e a u r o c r a t i c -- far too much paper work to fill out and submit . Then there's the HIPAA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Insurance_Portability_and_Accountabi... Maybe we'll go to la Canada where it's ƒree :) e . g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicko What goes around comes around /s, Dr. Dosh , HI u s a b t w - tea partiers ; The jury is still out on Obamacare ® Although Dr. Ron Paul practiced in TX for free for many years as an obstetrician we would not want to receive health care or education there . .. .it ranks 4 9 th out of 5 0 in these very United States

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yancey has a heart problem

Yancey has a heart problem but continues to smoke...Duh!!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If she's smoking a pack a

If she's smoking a pack a day, she's probably spending another $2400 of her $12,000 annual income on gaspers. So, she's spending $2400 a year to kill herself and $300 a year to keep herself alive. Yikes..

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Make that $3300 a year to

Make that $3300 a year to keep herself alive. (Damn parrot. I know I shouldn't have let him type it)

Terry Donald's picture

What next?

Nice list of stats, but no answers to any of the problems.
Come on United States, join Maine, or recently passed health care reform package in essence says this. Trust the free market, allow big incredbly wealthy health insurers to voluntarily lower the prices they charge and get more people covered with affordable insurance that promotes preventative care! Oh, yea, forgot, that's what we've been doing for generations,,, hasn't worked yet,,, worn't work this time. LePage has led us down the fools path.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

How's Baldacci's Dirigo plan

How's Baldacci's Dirigo plan working?

Terry Donald's picture

PRETTY DARN WELL

Over 35,000 Mainers have been enrolled in the plan. If you take a look at overall cost to maine residents for health care insurance over the past 10 years you will see that rates here went up at slower rates than those of states surrounding us. In that time Maine has gone from having the highest rates for health insurance coverage, to having the lowest rates of any state in the northeast. So while Mr LePage and his party minions will tell you differently to support their effort and laying the cash cow of health insurance at the feel of the insurance companies, Dirigo Health has actually helped the entire state in easing health care costs. And guess what, the Dirigo plan has not cost people not enrolled a single dime. Now Mr LePage's plan does have a pretty healthy tax attached to it, doesn't it?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

How rare...a response that

How rare...a response that makes sense, and not a single insult. Thank you Mr. Donald.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

BTW, that Agree is invalid. I

BTW, that Agree is invalid. I hit it by mistake in attempting to press the Disagree. You owe me one.

Mark Elliott's picture

you can rescind it now by

you can rescind it now by clicking it again.....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Careful, you came pretty

Careful, you came pretty close to walking the plank that time. Where it not for 'two for Tuesday', you'd have been out there.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Running up and down the scale

Running up and down the scale like a little piano player aren't we.

Jim Cyr's picture

Health Care System

to blame and using an "unhealthy life style" as an opening case really smells like "Editorial Spin". Does that really sound like the S/J caters to the true Constitutionalist (ie... Tea Party) there Monsieur Breton?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The teawaggers will be

The teawaggers will be available for psychiatric consultation as soon as we can clear the streets of the fleabaggers. The parrot sez he had a German Lucre once, but he kept it pretty clean.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...