To the Editor: Opponents of reforming our health-care system, particularly going to a single-payer, largely base their opinion on the belief that the U.S. has the best medical care in the world. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to doubt that premise.
Recently, medical researchers in the U.K. discovered a new, more-virulent strain of the COVID-19 virus. While that in itself proves nothing, it raised the question why U.K. researchers made this finding before ours could, especially considering that we now know this strain is here.
It turns out that U.K. scientists have been diligently identifying and monitoring unique strains of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, genetically sequencing over 4,000 variants. Meanwhile, U.S. scientists have only sequenced 40 strains.
Another major failing of the U.S. health-care system, exposed by COVID-19, has been our roll-out of vaccines. The Operation Warp Speed head, General Gustave Perna, promised 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020, yet, only 3 million were administered. This bodes poorly for our country and is reminiscent of our on-going failing regarding COVID-19 testing.
I don't think the fault lies with our scientists and health-care professionals vis-a-vis their U.K. counterparts; I believe our system simply doesn't function as well, and that is by design. The U.K. has a National Healthcare System (NHS) that is less profit-focused and more outcome-conscious. The NHS is a single provider with all components--doctors, pharmacies, research, hospitals, etc.—working under one umbrella.
In the U.S., each of these components competes for its share of medical dollars. Making matters worse, the medical systems vary by state. This parochial, fragmented approach is not only more costly—$4,247/capita/year in the U.K. vs $10,209/capita/year in the U.S.—it is inefficient and leads to worse outcomes.
The U.S. remains the only developed nation in the world without universal health care. In 2018, 27.5 million Americans lacked insurance and we ranked 36th in life expectancy; that was before COVID-19, so when the 2020 rankings come out, we can expect to drop even further.
To those who say "if it's not broken, don't fix it," I say: open your eyes—it's been broken for a long time.
Retired 28-year DOT Employee
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