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US healthcare becomes major election issue

Posted by lahar9jhadav on October 23, 2008

As an outsider living in a country where medical treatment is regarded as a basic human right and is free to all, I find the report below indicates a fundamental flaw in US Democracy and Human rights.

Barack Obama and John McCain are exchanging fire over the best prescription for America’s ailing healthcare system.

Report from ABC Television Australia

Broadcast: 22/10/2008

Reporter: Mark Simkin

Transcript (of a video report)

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Meanwhile, America’s presidential race is increasingly focusing on the country’s ailing health care system characterised by huge fees and a thread bear safety net for the poor.

The recession means more and more people are going without basic medical care while charities battle to fill some of those gaps.

North America correspondent Mark Simkin travelled with one of them to rural Virginia.


MARK SIMKIN, NORTH AMERICA CORRESPONDENT: The volunteers from Remote Area Medical are America’s flying doctors.

They drop into isolated and impoverished Amazonian villages to provide desperately needed medical care.

On this day though the charity touched down in the first world; half of RAMs work is done in the United States.



STAN BROCK, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL: So, here you have the richest country in the world and undeniably the best technology when it comes to medicine.

But medical attention in this country is largely a privilege of the well to do and the well insured. And so if you have none of the above, it’s a tough place to be.


(speaks to people in line)

So nobody is jumping the line, OK. I’ve done 544 of these.

MARK SIMKIN: We caught up with Stan in rural Virginia.

STAN BROCK: 39, 40. In we go thanks. 40, 41.

Thousands of people drove for hours and queued through the night to get free medical care.

STAN BROCK: 156, 157.

MARK SIMKIN: They turned the local fair ground into a massive weekend clinic. Volunteers provided tests in barns, eye checks in pens, and dental work in tents.

(To public)

Can I ask you what are you here for?

VOX POP: To have my teeth extracted.

MARK SIMKIN: How many?

VOX POP: All of them.

MARK SIMKIN: We heard that again and again. This man is getting all his teeth pulled out too.

FRED MORE, DENTIST: As you can see, they were decayed right off to the bone level, which makes it a little bit harder to get out because there’s nothing to hold on to.

MARK SIMKIN: The volunteer dentists removed 4,000 teeth in two days.

While a dentist drilled and pulled, hundreds of doctors and technicians held consultations, made dentures and took X-rays.

JOSEPH SMIDDY, DOCTOR: What we think is a … represents a lung cancer in the central location blocking off the lower portion of the lung.

MARK SIMKIN: The lung belongs to a 42-year-old woman.

JOSEPH SMIDDY: Yes, she’s the third patient today that has the appearances of lung cancer. And we’ve had several with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema.


MARK SIMKIN: None of the patients knew they had a life threatening problem; they’d probably still be in the dark if the doctor hadn’t bought an 18-wheel truck with his own money and turned it into a mobile X-ray unit.

JOSEPH SMIDDY: To be able to practice good medicine, great medicine, to show each patient how much you care about them as a person, to receive all cultures and nationalities and genders equally and to have money not be a barrier to care is just a wonderful feeling; it creates a joy.

MARK SIMKIN: The doctors and dentists provided more than $2 million worth of free care. The United States spends more on health care than anywhere else, but it doesn’t have universal coverage.

For many people, insurance is unaffordable or unavailable. Nearly 50 million Americans are uninsured; tens of millions or more are underinsured.

VOX POP 2: Everybody pays taxes in the United States; why not have health care for everybody? They need that, they really do. They really need that.

VOX POP 3: Damn right, it’s frustrating; it’s terrible, it’s awful. Something has to be done about this. Healthcare is gone off paces; that’s ridiculous.

MARK SIMKIN: Healthcare is one of America’s hottest political issues. Both presidential candidates want to overhaul the system but they want do it in radically different ways.

John McCain basically wants to deregulate the current system.

JOHN MCCAIN, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: I’ll bring down the sky rocketing costs with competition and choice to lower your premiums. Make it available to more Americans.

MARK SIMKIN: Barack Obama wants to expand the existing scheme by filling the gaps in coverage.

BARACK OBAMA, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: The cost of health care for the average family since George W Bush took office has gone up 78 per cent for the average family.

LINDA BLUMBERG, URBAN INSTITUTE: I think by far the Obama plan has much greater potential to increasing health insurance coverage and also to help us improve on how we share costs between the sick and the healthy.

MARK SIMKIN: Neither candidate’s prescription includes universal coverage, an approach Republican’s often call socialised medicine.

LINDA BLUMBERG: I have no doubt if someone came to me and said you get to decide: Are you going to have the US system in United States or are you going to take the Australian system?

In a minute I would take the Australian system, because it gives a level of equity and a basic source of care for necessary medical services across the board regardless of who you are and where you live in the country and what you do for a living or not, that we don’t have here.

MARK SIMKIN: Virginia’s Governor is Barack Obama’s campaign co-chairman. He thinks health care is a big election issue.

TIM KAINE, VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: When folks line up for days in advance to get basic dental and medical care, it just… we got to come out here to remind ourselves how much more work there is.

MARK SIMKIN: Is it embarrassing that such a rich country has such a big health problem?

TIM KAINE: I think it’s an embarrassment for the country, and I find, you know, I’ve often said that I love my job but there’s only one thing about my job that makes me feel ashamed and that’s that Virginians pay taxes to buy me health insurance, who can’t afford it themselves.

MARK SIMKIN: An Englishman founded Remote Area Medical two decades ago. Stan Brock’s led an extraordinary life, appearing on a famous American TV show as the original Crocodile Hunter.

STAN BROCK: They said, well, do you think you can lasso a wilder beast or a giraffe from horseback in Africa, and I thought that sounds like a nice idea, let’s go for it.

MARK SIMKIN: He got an idea for RAM while working as a cowboy in the Amazon. He fell off a horse that had already killed two other men.

STAN BROCK: And the cowboys, who of course, were all Indians, ran over and pulled me out from underneath the horse and they said the nearest doctor is 26 days march from here.

I think it was about that time that I got the idea to bring those doctors a little bit closer.

MARK SIMKIN: That’s what Stan Brock does across America. He’s even willing to visit remote Australian communities if required. The Englishmen believes that expeditions like this are satisfying and frustrating.

STAN BROCK: Are you here to see the dentist or the eye doctor? I’m afraid there’s no chance at all.

MARK SIMKIN: Thousands of people received help this weekend but when the space and time ran out, 1,000 more were turned away.

To get to see the dentist or the eye doctor you really need to be, I’m afraid, here about 2:00am.



Mark Simkin, Lateline.

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