The Common Good

I Don't Care What Our Health-Care System is Called, as Long as it Delivers

I recently sent an e-mail about health care to my congressman, Peter Roskam (R-IL, 6th District), through his Web site. If you have ever gone uninsured, struggled to pay insurance premiums, been given unnecessary and expensive tests, lost your insurance because of changing jobs, lost your insurance because of a pre-existing condition, gone bankrupt because of medical bills, or feared any of the above, please write your member of Congress too.

Here is what I wrote to Mr. Roskam. (Most of my statements are supported by data available at the World Health Organization Web site. The link will take you to a page where you can find an incredible array of data and build your own comparison charts. If you're a wonky nerd like me, you'll love it.)

Thank you for your phone message asking for our ideas about improving health care.

Having studied in France and worked in England, I am amazed at what some Americans, including yourself, are saying about single-payer systems. Clearly not enough study has been done on European countries whose health care is much better than ours--and at half the cost.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the French and Italians and Dutch (to name just three) do get to choose their own doctors. They have many more doctors and hospital beds available per 10,000 population. Their life expectancy is greater, and their infant and maternal mortality are lower. And yes, they do wait longer to see a specialist--but they are able to get in to see their primary physician much more quickly than most Americans can (and many doctors make house calls). Virtually everyone is covered, and when they go to the hospital they are admitted immediately without having to spend time in the business office first. Government doesn't interfere with their choices nearly as much as our own insurance companies do.

And what is most interesting is this--European government spending on health, per capita, is very similar to ours (France, $3,050; U.S., $2,862; Netherlands, $2,311; Italy, $2,061, 2005 statistics). Theoretically, we could improve our health care, cut the cost in half, and insure everybody, just like they do--unless, of course, we are more corrupt or less efficient than our European friends.

If you're really interested in learning about options, go to the WHO Web site and check the comparative data. It's very enlightening.

I agree that we can't just keep throwing money at our failed system. We need an entire restructuring, along the European model. Call it "socialism" if you like--I don't care what our system is called, as long as it delivers.

I appreciate your willingness to listen.

portrait-lavonne-neffLaVonne Neff is an editor, writer, and publishing consultant in Wheaton, Illinois, who blogs on book, bodies, and faith at livelydust.blogspot.com

To learn more about health-care reform, click here to visit Sojourners' Health-Care Resources Web page.

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