Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Land Of The Impoverished


The Land Of The Impoverished

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how well off we are. While we are right to be concerned about preventable deaths in our hospitals, about old age pensioners trapped beneath the poverty line, and about the apparent inability of our Government to do anything about petrol and grocery prices, it’s worthwhile having a look around. When we see how the rest of the world is traveling, things don’t seem quite so bad.

Right now, major world powers like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are sliding into recession. While most European nations have decent welfare safety nets in place, the United States is in a different category. When we think of the United States, we generally think of it as the most powerful nation on earth; a wealthy prosperous nation with high living standards. But that is only one side of the coin.

A new report produced by the U. S. Census Bureau has revealed that 37.3 million Americans officially live in poverty. Disregarding the fact that the United States definition of poverty is determined differently from ours, it is still alarming to think that almost twice the population of Australia lives in poverty in the Land Of The Free.

Even more staggering is the fact that 45.7 million Americans have no access to health insurance coverage, which essentially means they are on their own because Public Health in the United States is nothing like the world class system we enjoy here in Australia. The point is that, as great and powerful as the United States might be, not everything about their way of life is better than, or even comparable to ours.

This is why the concerns expressed by Australian Medical Association President, Dr. Rosanna Capolingua, must not be ignored. Of course she has a vested interest in defending the franchise of her members, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a point, and her point is that we do not want a United States style managed care health system in this country. Dr. Capolingua has warned that moves by the Federal Government to provide hospital performance data to Private Health Funds is a step in that direction.

Imagine if you could no longer choose what hospital or which doctor you wanted because your Private Health Fund will not pay. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford Private Health Insurance, shouldn't you be entitled to get what you are paying for? The Funds are business operators who must be driven by the profit imperative, and as such should never be placed into a position where they are influencing or controlling clinical decisions.

That is not the Australian way.

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