All I Want for Christmas Is Universal Health Care!

By Martin Brown

After years of national anguish, is a universal health care plan too much to ask from our government? A long time ago, Americans looked across the Atlantic and shook their heads in wonder at European nations, which felt no compulsion whatsoever to provide accessible and free public education for all.

Now, more than a century later, the descendants of those Europeans wonder with equal amazement why it’s taken us so long to realize that that accessible, affordable health care is not a privilege but a basic human right.

Within its first hundred years, our country learned that every child should have access to education. Without that access, we could never call ourselves a land of opportunity. It was that belief that allowed us to throw off the yoke of a caste society that remained in place in England, for example, when America was producing individuals like Lincoln and others, who rose out of poverty to become leaders in their chosen fields.

In regard to health care, England decided that an individual’s need to have medical attention and care, whenever needed was not, connected to the issue of their means to purchase that care, but rather the basic responsibility of an ethical society.

Americans made a very different choice. They viewed a “socialized health system” as synonymous with poor quality of health care. Ongoing campaigns by special interest groups, such as the American Medical Association, private insurance providers, private hospital and health maintenance organizations, helped greatly to enforce the message that government provided health care was a road to ruin for our nation’s health systems.

For years this public relations campaign perpetrated upon American citizens held sway as seen in 1993. In that year the new Clinton administration made a push for national health care and was not able to win the support of Congress or the voters as reported in various research polls. But in the fifteen years since that failed attempt much has changed. Basic health care insurance has become unaffordable for millions of Americans. As of June 2008 an estimated 50 million Americans have no health insurance and another 25 million are under insured. Both groups are reluctant to seek basic medical attention for everything from mammograms and prostate checks, to help with an infection or injury. And those numbers continue ever upward with the passage of time.

Perhaps the most shocking of all is the simple fact that the long-standing argument that American health care is “the world’s finest” is simply not true.

That of course does not mean that the fully covered in our nation, along with the very wealthy, to not receive a very high level of care. What it means is that the overall health outcomes for Americans as a whole is sinking to lower and lower levels.

Consider, for example, this shocking information from a 2006 health report, issued by the World Health Organization: Cuba ranked 39th in terms of overall health care performance out of 191 member nations. Meanwhile, the United States ranked 72nd on that same list.

This, in spite of the fact that a 2007 survey revealed that Cuba’s per capita income of $4,500 based on gross domestic product, is approximately one-tenth that of the United States, which has a $46,000 per capita income.

Another equally disturbing fact: Canada, which has had national health care for decades, spends a full third less on the care of their citizens than the US.

The bottom line is increasingly clear: Nation after nation spends substantially less than America on its total health care bill, and in exchange has better health outcomes and longer life spans.

For these reasons, and many more, all I want for Christmas is national health care. It’s an idea whose time has come!

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