Our public leaders here in United States like to proclaim that we’re number one at everything, despite evidence to the contrary. When it comes to health care, now developing nations are beginning to leave us in the dust. In the article “U.S. lags in global healthcare push,” on last Saturday’s front page of the Los Angeles Times, China, Mexico, Ghana and even formerly war-torn Rwanda have embarked on efforts to expand health coverage to their citizens.
“This is truly a global movement,” said Dr. Julio Frenk, a former health minister in Mexico and dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. “As countries advance, they are realizing that creating universal healthcare systems is a necessity for long-term economic development.”
But the international drive to provide healthcare for everyone is increasingly leaving America behind.
“We are really an outlier,” said David De Ferranti, a former World Bank vice president who heads the Results for Development Institute, an international nonprofit based in Washington.
This situation is increasingly becoming an international embarrassment for the U.S., as well as an impediment to our nation’s economic progress. Developing countries know they cannot compete globally with an unhealthy workforce. Yet, the U.S. continues to limp along, wasting resources on an inefficient for-profit healthcare system, and seeing its global economic dominance erode. Americans are throwing their hard-earned money down a health insurance rat-hole, leaving them unable to put that money toward paying off mortgages, financing education, or buying cars or other consumer products.
America’s inability to expand affordable coverage to all really comes down to a toxic combination of political dysfunction, corporate greed and a troubling lack of social solidarity, which fuels appeals to selfishness and bigoted attitudes toward the poor and vulnerable. We have one major political party refusing to extend health care as a right to all Americans, while the other major party will not fight for, let alone consider, the best option to our healthcare crisis – single payer. And we have a Supreme Court that next month could undo programs that provide health care to the poorest Americans. While we’re fighting amongst ourselves over an issue that should bring all Americans together, the rest of the world is passing us by.