Occasionally, President Bush is forthcoming about what he stands for, as illustrated in the photo above. Earlier this year, Mr. Bush presented his proposed 2007 budget to the nation. A careful review of the budget revealed cuts to many valuable health care programs, as reported by the Washington Post:
If enacted, the 2007 budget would eliminate federal programs that support inner-city Indian health clinics, defibrillators in rural areas, an educational campaign about Alzheimer’s disease, centers for traumatic brain injuries, and a nationwide registry for Lou Gehrig’s disease. It would cut close to $1 billion in health care grants to states and would kill the entire budget of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center.
In a $2.8 trillion budget, the amounts involved may seem minuscule, but proponents argue that the health care projects Bush has singled out are the “ultimate homeland security,” as Vinay Nadkarni put it. The spokesman for the American Heart Association said he cannot fathom why the administration has recommended eliminating a $1.5 million program that provides defibrillators to rural communities and trains local personnel on how to use the machines to restart hearts that go into cardiac arrest.
“Coronary heart disease is the number one killer in the United States,” Nadkarni said. “This is actually something we can arm ourselves with.” [full text]
There appears little question that the health care system in this country is inadequate, inefficient, and inequitable and that the Bush administration and Congress have failed to take any substantive action to remedy the situation. Compelling evidence of the health care crisis is offered by Doug Pibel and Sarah van Gelder in an article in the Fall 2006 issue of YES! Magazine:
For Joel Segal, it was the day he was kicked out of George Washington Hospital, still on an IV after knee surgery, without insurance, and with $100,000 in medical debt. For Kiki Peppard, it was having to postpone needed surgery until she could find a job with insuranceâ€”it took her two years. People all over the United States are waking up to the fact that our system of providing health care is a disaster.
An estimated 50 million Americans lack medical insurance, and a similar and rapidly growing number are underinsured. The uninsured are excluded from services, charged more for services, and die when medical care could save themâ€”an estimated 18,000 die each year because they lack medical coverage.
But itâ€™s not only the uninsured who suffer. Of the more than 1.5 million bankruptcies filed in the U.S. each year, about half are a result of medical bills; of those, three-quarters of filers had health insurance.
Businesses are suffering too. Insurance premiums increased 73 percent between 2000 and 2005, and per capita costs are expected to keep rising. The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) estimates that, without reform, national health care spending will double over the next 10 years. The NCHC is not some fringe advocacy groupâ€”its co-chairs are Congressmen Robert D. Ray (R-IA) and Paul G. Rogers (D-FL), and it counts General Electric and Verizon among its members.
Employers who want to offer employee health care benefits canâ€™t compete with low-road employers who offer none. Nor can they compete with companies located in countries that offer national health insurance.
The shocking facts about health care in the United States are well known. Thereâ€™s little argument that the system is broken. Whatâ€™s not well known is that the dialogue about fixing the health care system is just as broken.
Among politicians and pundits, a universal, publicly funded system is off the table. But Americans in increasing numbers know what their leaders seem not to â€” that the United States is the only industrialized nation where such stories as Joelâ€™s and Kikiâ€™s can happen.
And most Americans know why: the United States leaves the health of its citizens at the mercy of an expensive, patchwork system where some get great care while others get none at all.
The overwhelming majority â€” 75 percent, according to an October 2005 Harris Poll â€” want what people in other wealthy countries have: the peace of mind of universal health insurance. [full text]