Looking at the shambles that is US healthcare, we need to fight privatisation of the NHS as hard as we can
This week my brother, Bernie Sanders, won the Wisconsin Democratic primary which is great news. But it is also great news for a central and defining issue in his campaign, which is the shambles that is American healthcare.
The strangest thing about the debate over healthcare in the US is that it is still going on. The systems failure is glaring. Millions have inadequate care and tens of thousands succumb unnecessarily. Average life expectancy is lower than that in dozens of poorer countries, and more children succumb and more people have chronic diseases than in other rich countries. People pay vastly more than in any comparable economy, and their own lives are dominated by the fear of falling ailment, of being unable to protect their children, of having to choose between buying insurance and having enough for rent or mortgage. And then, when serious illness develops often because early therapy was not affordable they face grinding fiscal frets on top of the illness itself. A million people a year are bankrupted by health debts.
It is not difficult to see why potential beneficiaries of this failing system supporting it, as astonishing amounts of money can be made. The chief executive of United Healthcare, the largest insurer, for instance, was paid $66 m in 2014. But why do so many people vote for politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, who argue that the US cannot have a high-quality universal system? Much of the reason comes from the normal working of a very unequal system. Wealthy senior executives and shareholders can finance intensive lobbying and contribute to election campaigns.
The founding principle that all men are created equal and are endowed by their inventor with certain unalienable rights could have led to good healthcare being available to everyone. This is what my brother argues: that healthcare must be recognised as a right … regardless of their income. The faith in equality is deep in American society, but it is challenged by a conviction that government subsistence is morally dangerous for private individuals and an assault on the rights of those whose taxes pay for the benefits. In fact, while over 60% of the healthcare budget is provided from taxes, the problem is how little of it actually pays for care.
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