Join ‘economically free’ nations that provide health care

By Roberta Jorgensen

According to the Heritage Foundation, a rightwing think tank associated with the Republican Party, the U.S. ranks 17th on its index of Economic Freedom (www.heritage.org/index/ranking).

When one looks at these rankings, what is interesting to note is that the top five countries on the list (Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia) all have universal health care coverage.

Thus, universal health care coverage appears in no way to impede economic freedom. That is, the ability to “move labor, capital and goods freely without coercion or constraint of liberty.”

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), a comprehensive study done by the Commonwealth Fund using pre-2013 data and comparing 13 high-income countries (tinyurl.com/CommonwealthHealthCare) provides evidence for the following:

The U.S. spends far more on health care than any other country despite covering fewer residents.

The U.S. has poorer results than the other countries in terms of health outcomes as evidenced by having the lowest life expectancy at birth of all the countries studied (78.8 years, compared to a mean of 81.2 years); the highest infant mortality rate of all the countries (6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births as compared to the median of 3.5); and the highest rates of obesity and the highest rates of adults 65 and older having two or more chronic diseases. Of special note, the study found that even well-off, non-obese Americans appear to be in worse health than their peers abroad.

Only Japan and Canada have a lower number of physicians per 1,000 population than the U.S.

Residents of the U.S. had fewer physician visits per year than the median and less than eight other countries.

Thus it appears that a universal health care system would provide greater benefits in terms of overall population health, economic freedom and the limiting of health care costs.

Roberta Jorgensen lives on Camano Island.

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