Monday, July 30, 2007

Being Positive/WHO Health Care Ratings/ More On Mr. Moore/Pledge/Vonnegut

(P1) Political

HOW TO START YOUR DAY WITH A POSITIVE OUTLOOK

1. Open a new folder on your computer.
2. Name it "George W. Bush"
3. Send it to the trash.
4. Empty the trash.
5. Your computer will ask you:
"Do you really want to get rid of "George W. Bush?"
6. Firmly Click "Yes."
7. Feel better.

PS: Tomorrow we'll do Dick Cheney......

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(P2) Philosophical

Model For Health Care: Let's Try France


Much has been made of Michael Moore's trip to Cuba on behalf of NYC 9/11 rescue workers who could not get the medical care they needed in the US. Granted this was "theater," but it does raise some interesting questions. The main issue is just where Cuba stands with regard to health care and why it does. Initially, when I viewed the World Health Organization's rankings (below), I was surprised to note that Cuba is ranked 39th, two places behind 37th rated United States. I dug in and found a scholarly article from the Journal Of the Medical Library Association (April 2002). Several things jumped out at me

1. In 2002, the US ranked #24 while Cuba was #33 in the world. Both have dropped since then.

2. However, considering Cuba's meager economic resource, it has "the highest basic life expectancy among all Latin Americans."

Granted, the following from that Journal article is from 2002, so I invite readers to provide more recent research. When I survey the more recent literature quickly, my sense is that health care statistics from the two countries are not too different from each other with exceptions including infant mortality rates and number of physicians per 1000 patients, both categories in which Cuba appears to have a better record.

Cuba, known widely for its excellent health care system, still functions under poor economic circumstances. The annual per capita gross national product in 1995 for Cuba was $1,522, compared to $26,980 for the United States. Yet, the World Health Organization's (WHO's) healthy life expectancy rankings place Cuba as thirty-third worldwide, not far behind the United States' ranking as twenty-fourth. Furthermore, Cuba is fifth in the western hemisphere behind Canada, the United States, Dominica, and Chile in the WHO disability adjusted life expectancy (DALE) rankings, which summarize expected number of years to be lived in what may be termed the equivalent of “full health.” According to these rankings, Cubans have the highest basic life expectancy among all Latin Americans [1–3].

Simply put, therefore, although few of us may want to live in Cuba (Eldridge Cleaver attempted this, became horrified, and moved back to this country), Cuba appears to put its health care priorities far ahead of where our own "rich" country does.

But let's get this straight...The United States of America need not look to Cuba for its model. That's a distraction that Moore's critics will pound on ad infinitum. Rather, I challenge our "leaders" and citizenry to look toward world heath care leaders France, Italy, and Spain as examples of what can and is being done to guarantee the health and welfare of its citizens. It's not an accident that Bush chose to pick on France (recall "freedom fries).

I am calling on each presidential candidate to pledge to refuse their free government health care until every person in this country also has it. I want every candidate who said they'd work for the minimum wage as president to work uninsured, too, until health care is universal. And I want the other candidates to join them. (Yes, I'm looking at you, too, Republicans. I know you can afford to do it.)

Michael Moore on Huffington Post 7-26-07

The World Health Organization's ranking
of the world's health systems.
Source: WHO World Health Report - See also Spreadsheet Details (731kb)


Rank       CountryView this list in alphabetic order View this list in alphabetic order View this list in alphabetic order

1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 United States of America
38 Slovenia
39 Cuba
40 Brunei
41 New Zealand
42 Bahrain
43 Croatia
44 Qatar
45 Kuwait
46 Barbados
47 Thailand
48 Czech Republic
49 Malaysia
50 Poland
51 Dominican Republic
52 Tunisia
53 Jamaica
54 Venezuela
55 Albania
56 Seychelles
57 Paraguay
58 South Korea
59 Senegal
60 Philippines
61 Mexico
62 Slovakia
63 Egypt
64 Kazakhstan
65 Uruguay
66 Hungary
67 Trinidad and Tobago
68 Saint Lucia
69 Belize
70 Turkey
71 Nicaragua
72 Belarus
73 Lithuania
74 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
75 Argentina
76 Sri Lanka
77 Estonia
78 Guatemala
79 Ukraine
80 Solomon Islands

(In the interest of space, I will spare readers the listing from 81 Algeria to 190 Myanmar)

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(P3) Poetical

Kurt Vonnegut in Breakfast Of Champions:


"He (Kilgore Trout) wrote a novel, for instance, about an Earthling named Delmore
Skag, a bachelor in a neighborhood where everybody else had enormous families.
And Skag was a scientist, and he found a way to reproduce himself in chicken soup.
He would shave living cells from the palm of his right hand, mix them with the soup,
and expose the soup to cosmic rays. The cells turned into babies which looked
exactly like Delmore Skag. "Pretty soon, Delmore was having several babies a day,
and inviting his neighbors to share his pride and happiness. He had mass baptisms
of as many as a hundred babies at a time. He became famous as a family man.

"And so on."

*****

"Skag hoped to force his country into making laws against excessively large
families, but the legislatures and the courts declined to meet the problem
head-on. They passed stern laws instead against the possession by
unmarried persons of chicken soup.

"And so on."

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3 comments:

Duncan said...

Gee, I'm first?

On the health care issue, I take a rather simplistic view of the situation. The USA has a "free market" system of health care run by a bunch of insurance of companies; and, not a big bunch at that. The patients pay a whopping insurance premium for health care and the insurance companies and the doctors set the costs of care. When the doctors and hospitals want more money, they negotiate with the insurance companies and the patient ends up paying more for the coverage. The citizen with the most money, therefore, gets the best care and the one with little or no money gets little or no care. We do have Medicaid, but one must be essentially destitute to qualify for it.

The European countries have a "socialized" or government supported system, or systems. Here, the government sets the standards, the fees, the costs... and collects a percentage of each citizen's pay check to pay for the overall system costs. Each patient gets exactly the same level of care regardless of income or how much was paid by payroll deduction.

Now, what sounds best to you?

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of getting rid of Bush on the computer and moving through the administration.

It put a smile on my face when I needed one.

Connie said...

Speaking as someone (an American) who actually lives full time in France, and is fully on the French national health system, I can vouch for it being really excellent.

Nineteen years ago I had a very bad patch of medical problems, and when my hair fell out due to chemo, the health care insurance even covered the purchase of my wig. Also paid for a special medical taxi to take me to my doctors appointments and back home again.

More recently, my husband wanted to see our village doctor for some medical situation, so he called during the day (a Friday) for an appointment, and was told to come in at 9:30. When he said he'd made the appointment, I said "Are you sure you got the time right?" because that seemed a bit odd for office hours. He said, "Yes, they repeated the time for me and I'm sure I heard it right."

So that night, at 9:30 we went to the doctor's office, waited a few minutes in the waiting room (a couple other people were waiting, too, and went in before us), and when called up went in to see the doctor, just as normally as if it had been daytime. Apparently it's not unusual for our doctor to work all hours if he's needed. The cost of visiting our doctor, including a good 10 minute yak about issues fairly tangential to our health: 3 euros, about $4. OK we pay a lot into the system out of my husband's paycheck, but man there's nothing like getting what you need when you need it.

It's a great relief to know that if something really bad should happen to us here where we live in France, we'll get treatment, with precious few questions asked. In fact, when my husband and I were both unemployed we got very similar cover to the cover we get now. And we know that in this country, nobody gets turned away from medical treatment, everyone (even illegal aliens and undocumented people) has at least basic coverage and the middle classes do not fear bankruptcy if medical disaster should strike. For us, it's one less stress to deal with in life, and I feel very happy to live in this system. We love France.