The picture above, grabbed from the New York Times, highlights the dismal status of health care in the US. It’s a picture of a recent Remote Area Medical (RAM) Expedition held in Wise County Virginia, where over the course of three days, over 2,000 people came for basic health, dental and eye care.
The New York Times quotes Dr. Joseph F. Smiddy, 75, who has volunteered at every RAM clinic in Wise county since 1999, as saying that people’s health was getting worse, not better, “as the region shed well-paying jobs, primarily in coal, and diets and lifestyles deteriorated.”
“We’re sicker here than in Central America,” said Dr. Smiddy, who has volunteered on charity health trips there. “In Central America, they’re eating beans and rice and walking everywhere. They’re not drinking Mountain Dew and eating candy. They’re not having an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and lung cancer.”
Basic statistics support Dr. Smiddy’s claims. According to PBS, in 2012, the US spent more than any other country on health care by far. Yet the US ranks 38th in the world in infant mortality, behind Cuba and Slovakia, and 31rst in life expectancy, behind Costa Rica and one slot ahead of Cuba. We’re not health care experts here at the VA9th.com, but we’re guessing the answer isn’t a house bill that would repeal Obamacare and cost 62,000 citizens in the Ninth District alone their health care insurance. On the other hand, throwing more money at the problem without a comprehensive plan isn’t the answer either.
It’s accurate and easy to assert that the eating and other lifestyle habits of many people treated at these RAM events are causing their own problems, that they are self-inflicted. But more than any other problem in today’s society, health care is a drag on overall resources. If we don’t address and resolve them straight up, they will only get worse.
What are our politicians doing? According to the Roanoke Times, Ralph Northam, MD, Lt. Governor and gubernatorial candidate of Virginia, Democrat, was there treating patients for the fifth time. At the event, Northam said, “I’m a big believer that health care should be a right, just like education is a right. In the richest country in the world, people should be able to not be one medical issue away from financial demise or death.” It’s really hard to argue against this statement.
The Roanoke paper reported that while Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Terry McAuliffe were there (both Democrats), Morgan Griffiths, the Congressman for the Ninth District that includes Wise County, and a strong advocate of repealing Obamacare was not. Neither was Senator Mitch McConnell from neighboring Kentucky, the Senate Majority Leader and a key figure in the Senate’s attempts to repeal Obamacare. We wish they had stopped by, if only to place a public face on the problem they are actively seeking to worsen.
There are no simple answers. but the binging and purging cycle of health care needs to stop. The US binges when the Democrats control the legislature and attempts to purge when the Republicans are in power. The problem is, basic health care should not be a partisan issue.
As the PBS statistics prove, many other countries spend less and achieve better results. We need to study why and fundamentally change our system. It’s doable if we abandon the partisan dogma and attempt to find real solutions. It’s doable if the parties work together to achieve it.