A health-care system that’s sick, getting sicker

America’s health-care crisis continues to deteriorate into something worse, something chronic that threatens to be untreatable. Unless we act now. If only all the campaign chatter and promises might actually turn into action that begins to touch this growing national embarrassment.

Tuesday’s headlines tell us that “Many in Snohomish County get too little medical care.” A Snohomish Health District report reveals that nearly 15 percent of adults here lack health insurance and lack of money often means they put off getting medical care.

The report found that too many moms aren’t getting enough prenatal care during their pregnancies, which can lead to premature births and babies with low birth weights. And too many seniors aren’t getting regular health screenings, such as mammograms, even though they are covered through Medicare.

The Snohomish County residents who are not covered are among the estimated 44 million Americans who are uninsured. Eight out of 10 of these are workers or their dependents. Another 38 million have inadequate health insurance.

The Snohomish County report found that adults were less likely to receive recommended preventive care, such as a mammogram in the past two years, a Pap test in the past three years and a flu shot in the past year.

We know that detecting diseases and disorders early is key to curing or containing them, thus the extreme value of the screening tests. It is more costly, financially and physically, to treat a disease after it has become full-fledged.

We also know that the cost of health care keeps going up, for everyone. Small businesses struggle to provide coverage for their workers.

In a PBS program, Sherry Glied, an associate professor of public health at Columbia University, summed up the vicious circle facing the uninsured: “They’re at risk of not getting regular care when they need it. They’re at risk of not catching real problems before they get serious enough to not be treatable. They’re at risk of not getting the best treatment when they actually do get sick. And they’re at tremendous financial risk. They could lose everything that they’ve saved in their lives because of some even fairly minor health problem.”

Making sure every all mothers-to-be get the prenatal care they need would be the logical place a smart, compassionate nation would start.

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