Yes, we, the United States of A-Merry-Ca (copyright the field negro), have the greatest health care in the world — for billionaires, that is. For the rest of us? Have you ever consider taking a medical vacation to that sunny land south of the border? No really. Because a million plus Californians apparently feel the need to seek assistance for the medical conditions in that land we Gringos love to denigrate for its third world status, bad economy and swine flu. You know — Mexico!

Nearly a million Californians, perhaps hundreds of thousands more, cross the border to Mexico every year because they cannot afford the rising cost of health care in the United States, according to UCLA researchers.

The study by the school’s Center for Health Policy Research, published Tuesday in the journal Medical Care, affirms what has long been suspected – that the untamable cost of medicine is forcing many, particularly Latino immigrants, to look outside California for medical and dental care. As casualties from the recession rise and as budget-strapped government programs eliminate health services, more people are expected to head south to fill prescriptions, get teeth fixed or undergo care for chronic illnesses. […]

The number seeking care in Mexico may actually be much larger, because findings are based on 2001 data from the California Health Interview Survey and do not take into account today’s higher rates of unemployment and the increasing rate of the medically uninsured.

It seems a fair trade. They send us their dirt poor unemployed who will work for crap wages and under horrid work conditions and we send them our sick people who can’t afford the best health care system on the planet (according to any right wing conservative ideologue — i.e., Republican — whom you are unfortunate to run into). Greatest health care system, that is, until they lose their health insurance. Or find out that their employer’s HMO plan won’t approve treatment for their life threatening illness. But God forbid we even consider a single payer he;ath care plan, because that would be (cue scary music and Glenn beck narration) socialized medicine! Because we all know where that will lead: the same type of health care system they had in Communist Romania! Really, that’s what the wingnuts (who get valuable op-ed space in their local newspapers) believe.

One breath at a time, America has been sucked into the very same universal health care system that we so strenuously resisted during the Clinton years. It is very similar to the failed government-run system from which the former communist Romania is now struggling to escape.

Because, that of course, is the model for all universal health care systems. Former communist countries whose economies were run into the ground by a corrupt dictator. So much like our situation, isn’t it? Except, there’s one little problem with this argument. If our health care system is so great, why are millions of people choosing to go to Mexico for their health care? Or trying to buy their drugs from Canadian pharmacies? And why was our beloved United States of A-Merry-Ca’s health care system ranked 37th in the world by the World Health organization the last year they did international rankings in 2000? Why is the country of quiche, Chardonnay sippers and surrender monkeys, that evil bastion of socialized single payer health care, i.e., France, ranked number 1? Why, in short do we suck at providing affordable, reliable, universal health care to all our citizens?

All other major industrialized nations provide universal health coverage, and most of them have comprehensive benefit packages with no cost-sharing by the patients. The United States, to its shame, has some 45 million people without health insurance and many more millions who have poor coverage. […]

The United States ranks dead last on almost all measures of equity because we have the greatest disparity in the quality of care given to richer and poorer citizens. […]

We have known for years that America has a high infant mortality rate, so it is no surprise that we rank last among 23 nations by that yardstick. But the problem is much broader. We rank near the bottom in healthy life expectancy at age 60, and 15th among 19 countries in deaths from a wide range of illnesses that would not have been fatal if treated with timely and effective care. […]

[The USA] scored poorly in coordinating the care of chronically ill patients, in protecting the safety of patients, and in meeting their needs and preferences, which drove our overall quality rating down to last place. American doctors and hospitals kill patients through surgical and medical mistakes more often than their counterparts in other industrialized nations. […]

In a comparison of five countries, the United States had the best survival rate for breast cancer, second best for cervical cancer and childhood leukemia, worst for kidney transplants, and almost-worst for liver transplants and colorectal cancer. In an eight-country comparison, the United States ranked last in years of potential life lost to circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes and had the second highest death rate from bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. Although several factors can affect these results, it seems likely that the quality of care delivered was a significant contributor. […]

Polls in Europe and North America seven to nine years ago found that only 40 percent of Americans were satisfied with the nation’s health care system, placing us 14th out of 17 countries. […]

. . . Americans face higher out-of-pocket costs than citizens elsewhere, are less apt to have a long-term doctor, less able to see a doctor on the same day when sick, and less apt to get their questions answered or receive clear instructions from a doctor. […]

. . . American primary care doctors lag years behind doctors in other advanced nations in adopting electronic medical records or prescribing medications electronically. This makes it harder to coordinate care, spot errors and adhere to standard clinical guidelines.

In short, when millions of our people flock to Mexico for health care benefits they can’t afford here in the “Greatest Nation on Earth” something is rotten, and it ain’t in Denmark. When we rank last or nearly last in so many categories of medical care and services provided to our citizens we should be deeply ashamed. And when we have 45 million or more Americans without any health care coverage, and millions more (like many of us here) with coverage that costs us thousands of dollars for the right to be denied needed medical treatments and procedures by our health insurance providers, we have a deadly serious problem. Our excessively high health care costs, our lack of universal coverage, and our record of poor health for millions of Americans is not only a drag on our economy, but it creates a public health risk to everyone. For example, with millions of uninsured people unable or unwilling to seek medical care when they become sick, the risk of epidemics and pandemics affecting our entire population is greater than in any other developed country.

And make no mistake. Our health care system is the direct result of choices we made, or that were made for us, by ideological or corrupt politicians and lobbyists for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is the worst of all possible worlds for everyone who isn’t wealthy enough to afford a gold standard health insurance policy. In a country which has decent health care, you don’t see millions of people traveling overseas to third world countries for medical treatment. What we have is a pay to play system. That works just great if you can afford the best care. But for 95% of the population it means that our standard of living and the quality of the lives we lead is in free fall. We spend more and more each year for less and less from our health care system.

So don’t tell me about the evils of socialized medicine. Most of us are already in health care hell right here and now. Counties who have a single payer system do a better job for the health and welfare of their citizens than we in the US of A do. And that, my friends, in a country with the world’s largest economy, is a crime against our humanity.

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