In the ongoing debate about the adequacy of America’s health care system, we often hear that we have one of the world’s finest medical systems. It might be that for the people who can afford it, but it certainly isn’t for millions of Americans — including thousands in the Ninth Congressional District of Missouri.
American government figures from 2009 show that the U.S. ranks 30th in the world in life expectancy. Nations such as Italy, Spain, South Korea, Jordan and Bosnia and Herzegovina rank ahead of us. And we are in a cluster that includes Ireland, Portugal and Albania. Similarly, 2006 UN figures on infant mortality show that we rank 33rd in the world. We are behind nations such as South Korea, Spain, Slovenia, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Cuba. Where are we? Way down with Cyprus and Croatia.
Our problem is purely one of access. Americans will not have true freedom of opportunity until Congress realizes that we are the only “developed” nation that shamefully denies its citizens world-class health care. Until that day, let’s face the fact that our national health status is that of a Third World country.
Peter M. Gardner is a Columbia resident.