Friday, November 05, 2004

Bush's family values hurt families

When Bush voters were polled after voting, they said again and again they supported Bush because of his strong family values. I find this awfully perplexing because I think Bush’s health policies in particular have caused great suffering to families in this country. My brother has a chronic disease—Parkinsons—and has to pay extraordinary amounts for needed drugs. In the United States we have the highest costing drugs in the world. It harms families to have to pay so much of our incomes for drugs that people need. Further, the Bush administration has made it illegal to bring in lower cost drugs from Canada.

For seniors, the Bush administration did pass a pharmaceutical benefit for seniors which did not lower drug prices for them. The national health service in Canada negotiates with the drug companies and gets lower drug prices, but in Bush’s legislation the law forbade this government from negotiating for lower drug prices. When seniors sign up for the Bush drug plan, they are forced to stay on it for a year but the drug companies can weekly change their drug prices. Most seniors I know refuse to sign up for the plan. They feel it’s not a benefit for them at all but a giveaway of billions for the drug and insurance companies. I think again families are hurt by this Bush legislation.

The Bush administration is totally against a national health plan as in every other industrialized country, and they praise the present privatized health system. We in the United States pay more than any other country for medical care for a lousy health care system. The health of our citizens—measured by life expectancy and infant mortality—is less than any other industrialized country. We’re behind Finland, Canada, Switzerland, Japan, England, Australia, Austria, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden—yes behind them all. Actually, the United States’ life expectancy is very close to Costa Rica’s but in Costa Rica the average citizen spends $250/year on health care but in the U.S. our average citizen spends $1,500. Even Costa Rica has a better health system than the United States. When even tiny Costa Rica’s health care system is better than the United States, our families are really losing.

According to Dr. David Himmelstein who teaches at Harvard Medical School and is a cofounder of Physicians for a National Health Program, Americans spend less time in hospitals than people in other industrialized countries, visit the doctors less than in Japan and European countries, and get less high technology care than in Japan and European countries.

So if our soaring health care costs aren’t going for health care, what is it going for? Dr. Himmelstein says about “$50 billion a year in profit extracted from the health care system …. In fact, we spend each year about $320 billion or $340 billion on useless bureaucratic work in order to apportion the right to health care according to ability to pay, enforce inequality in care, and enforce the collection of profit by insurance companies, for-profit hospitals, the drug industry ….”

Of course, Bush doesn’t even talk about the 45 million Americans without health insurance. What about their families? I guess their families don’t count.

Personally, I fail to say how paying $400 billion to drug companies, h.m.o.s, and insurance companies helps families. As more and more of our babies die because of inadequate care for mothers and new infants, families are hurt. As more and more seniors can’t afford drugs and die earlier than they would in other countries, families are hurt. As people with chronic diseases are forced to pay ever increasing costs, families are hurt. Bush’s health policies are harming millions of families in this country.

If a U.S. citizen wants to improve their chances of having healthy baby or having their grandparents get good health care, they can always move to Canada or, better yet, France. Frances has a much better health care system than the U.S. It’s citizens live longer. More babies survive. Grandparents live longer. Now France has real family values.

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