most Americans are disappointed with the healthcare system


Data shows a century-record drop in life expectancy in a country with one of the world’s most expensive health care systems

In late August, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a press release announcing that life expectancy in the country fell for the second year in a row in 2021. as in 1996 and that the two-year decline was the largest in a century.

What is driving this significant drop, according to the CDC, is primarily the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This is perhaps not surprising, given that the US has the highest number of cases and deaths worldwide. But it is also essential to note that life expectancy in the US had reached a plateau since pre-pandemic due to “accidental injuries,liver disease, suicide and preventable diseases.

Now America is on track to drop out of the top 50 countries in life expectancy. An important factor is that every country up there has a public option for health insurance or a government-funded health care system. Could there be a connection?

Well, a new poll released Monday from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that less than half of Americans believe their health care system is being handled well. Only 12% said it was handled very or very well. The solution: 40% support a pay-only public health care system, and 58% support a public option.

It’s not hard to understand why Americans feel this way when the health outcomes in the country are so bad, while in the meantime they have one of the most expensive health care systems in the world. And it’s not just older adults or the immunocompromised, say, those most at risk for Covid-19, who are exposed to America’s poor health outcomes, as I mentioned earlier.

Another valuable measure for understanding the health impact of the pandemic and other factors on how long Americans live is called “life years lost” (YLL). A preprint study called “Missing Americans: Early Death in the United States, 1933-2021” found that: “Half of all deaths under 65 and 91% of the increase in immortality under 65 since 2019 would have been avoided if the US had had the death rates of their peers.”

It puts forward the conclusion that the US has a much higher death rate among children and adults of working age than comparable countries, sometimes even three times higher. In addition, the paper found that even if the excess deaths from Covid-19 were eliminated, the US would still have more excess deaths than comparable countries from accidental injuries and preventable diseases. All of this contributed to a total YLL in 2021 of 25 million years, mainly on the backs of younger people who died prematurely.

Much can be said about the myriad public health problems America faces, including the opioid crisis, the gun violence epidemic, and widespread obesity. All of these issues require a strong public health and public policy response to adequately address. But it’s clear that the linchpin that would fit all these parts together is a working health care system that delivers adequate results for its cost and is accessible.

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As I said before, Americans pay way too much for way too little in terms of treatment. But then there are a significant number of people who simply do not have access to health care. For example, some young people don’t go to the doctor because they think they are young and healthy. Sometimes those people have an emergency that ends up in the hospital.

The problem is, preventive medicine is extremely important in making sure people don’t end up in the emergency room or with severe disabilities — and the U.S. health care system is failing. This is evidenced by yet another metric, Healthy Average Life Expectancy (HALE), which measures how long a person can expect to live without a disability. According to a 2019 World Health Organization report, at just over 66 years old, the US has the lowest HALE of any high-income country.

Again, Americans die younger than their peers, they are more likely to die of preventable causes in their healthy years, and develop disabilities at a younger age. In addition, they have more expensive and less accessible care. Is it any wonder that so many of them are unhappy with their health care system? It is long past time to reform it.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author only and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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