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There are still some non-profit hospitals that really do try, physicians groups that really do try, and companies, such as Kaiser Permanente (which is a non-profit insurance company as well as a healthcare provider), that really seems to be trying to serve people with good care, and in good faith.
For the most part though, the American healthcare system is absolutely a for-profit system. Our healthcare delivery system is disjointed, and failing many. It is not uncommon for there to be three or five hospitals, multiple MRI machines, and many urgent care clinics within a couple of miles of each other. It is also not uncommon for a three county area to share one tiny hospital with no MRI, and no obstetric services. Furthermore, there is no real free market in healthcare, and there never has been. Our healthcare system is a perilous one for patients to navigate, and money is absolutely what drives much of what occurs.
When all this is added to pharmaceutical companies price gouging, thousand-dollar deductibles that make even employer-based insurance unusable for many, along with those who still have no health insurance, what we have here is an epic mess. Our embarrassingly high maternal death rate, and our lower life expectancy compared to nearly all other industrialized nations is, quite frankly, shameful. Add to this the fact that we spend more on healthcare than any other nation, and it is beyond clear that something is very badly broken. (And in case you’re curious, our healthcare system was broken long before Obamacare.)
I have spent my entire adult life providing care to ill and injured people. We have many great teaching hospitals where amazing research is done. We have many fantastic doctors and nurses. If patients do not have adequate access to our shining healthcare though, what good is any of it? If we want our country to succeed, how can we possibly do that if a large segment of our society is unable to stay healthy? How can a nation of people with inadequate healthcare continue to compete globally. If people continue needing to decide between their medicine, or feeding their family, we have failed as a society. Access to healthcare is critical not just for individuals, but for our society as a whole. It is confounding to me that this basic truism seems to be so poorly understood by so many.
The United States generally does provide excellent healthcare to those fortunate enough to afford it. Sadly though, in some areas of healthcare, the United States is woefully substandard. Take for example our dismal maternal death rates. The United States is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth. If simple, basic assessments and interventions, such as monitoring a woman’s rate of vaginal bleeding and a woman’s blood pressure after childbirth is not done consistently, along with quick and appropriate intervention every single time it is needed, we will keep killing new moms. Proper postpartum care, along with proper care of newborns, needs to be done correctly 100 percent of the time. As an RN, and as a mother who nearly hemorrhaged to death with her first child while no one noticed, I can say with some authority that we are failing…badly!
My primary interest as we go into the 2020 election cycle is fixing our broken healthcare system, so that every person in this country can finally have access to affordable, appropriate and safe care. To those who believe the system is fine the way it is, I flat out say that you are wrong. To those who believe that we have the best healthcare in the world, again, you are so very wrong. And to those companies who place profits over the welfare of patients, I long for the day when I can say to you good riddance, and may God have mercy upon you. You are going to need it.
Cheryl Barnes is a retired registered nurse and a critical care registered nurse. She resides in California.