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The Myth of American Health Care: The Lies that Are Killing Us

By Cheryl Seal

"Of all forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and most inhumane." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Need a good laugh? Here's a joke for you: America's standard of health care is the best in the world and therefore we should be willing to pay for it (as in high insurance premiums, high drug costs, high everything medical) so that we can continue to enjoy the best health in the world.

Now, when you have stopped rolling on the floor with helpless mirth, your tears of laughter will turn to tears of frustration and grief as you read the following sad litany of facts:

U.S. has the most new medicines in world, spends more of GDP on medicine than any other nation, and yet has the highest rates of cancers for at least 10 cancer types and the highest infant mortality rate of all developed nations. The conservative politicians say socialized medicine is bad because you might have to wait your turn for some nonemergency services, up to a few months. Why is that such a bad deal? - 42.6 million Americans face an even longer wait than that for ALL services - as in forever - because they have no insurance. That's the highest percentage of people without access to medical care in the world. We also have the highest number of ininsured of any developed nation (42.6 million).

So, check out where we REALLY stand compared to the rest of the world, re: statistics compiled from World Health Organization data and a Harvard U. study:

The U.S. ranks

NUMBER ONE in COST of health care, but
NUMBER 24 in disability-adjusted life expectancy, and
NUMBER 37 in the overall performance of its medical system and
NUMBER 40 in the level of satisfaction recipients express for their care

Nearly half (48%) of all people in the U.S. with below-average incomes report that it is "extremely, very, or somewhat difficult" to get medical care when they need it.

They say the gauge of the quality of a society is how they treat their infants and elderly. Looks like we're a second rate banana republic:

INFANT MORTALITY RATE per 100,000 births

Sweden: 382
Japan: 396
Norway: 413
France: 476
Austria: 492
Denmark: 551
Canada: 552
UK: 586
Israel: 662
U. S. 772

It seems no surprise that the two nations most obsessed at present with death and destruction have the highest rates.

ELDERLY CARE: (From 2000 Harvard School of Public Health report)

More than 1 in 4 (29%) elderly Americans have a difficult time meeting their basic monthly expenses.

32% of U.S. elderly have no drug coverage.

20% of US elderly pay $50-$100 per month out-of -pocket for drugs, while 16% pay more than $100 per month. By contrast, under 5% of the elderly in four other developed countries pay more than $100 per month.

15% of elderly have foregone filling prescriptions because they could not afford it,

18 % have problems paying medical bills


The U.S. also has the greatest disparity between the health of the poor and that of the wealthy of all industrialized nations. Black infants, for example, have a mortality rate that is more than twice that of white children (14 versus 6 per 100,000).


If you believe what the drug company ads and the medical industry lobbyists tell you, you'd be sure that America is just a heartbeat away from beating cancer...that our cancer patients are damn lucky to be living in the good ole U.S. of A. Well, think again.

In addition to having the highest rate of prostrate cancer in the world as a nation, the U.S. also boasts the worst prostate cancer rates in world for a specific population: Black men in Atlanta Georgia, while black men in New Orleans have the second highest lung cancer rate in the world, after the Maoris of New Zealand

The U.S. also has the highest rates in the world of the following cancers:

Colon cancer in males
Cancer of lung, breast, oropharynx, larnynx and bladder in women
For both sexes: Pancreas, thyroid, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple myeloma, myeloid leukemia:

America's five-year cancer survival rates for all types of cancer for all races: 4%
whites only 5%
blacks: 2%

And now here's a crowning fact in the cancer department. Billions upon billions of dollars are donated each year to cancer research from private, local, state, and federal sources. But cancer research fundraising has become just another Enron-style cash cow and PR op for the elite. Not surprisingly, Barbara and George Bush, sr. are the darlings of the cancer fundraising circuit. A recent study of the American Cancer Society (who awarded the Bushes their medal of honor for 2002) shows that only 16% of the billions poured into cancer research goes to cancer research. The rest goes to high-profile, big-buck figurehead positions and schmoozing.

For example, one of Enron's CEO's was named to a top post at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic. This guy, John Mendelsohn, was one of the primary forces behind Imclone, the company now being investigated for fraud. After Mendelsohn got his post at the clinic, Ken Lay donated $55,000 to the clinic - but only on the condition it went to a special fund set up in the name of his pals the senior Bushes. The Bushes are major fundraising figureheads for said clinic. And, John Mendelsohn has been an advisor on key issues -like stem cell research - to G. W. Bush, privately meeting with him in August 2001 at the White House. Mendlesohn was caught failing to inform drug trial patients that he, the principle investigator for Imclone's drug Erbitux, has a vested financial interest in the outcome. But has ANYONE noticed Mendelesohn's name in the news, linked either with Imclone OR Enron? Nope! All they can see is Martha Stewart, who has been used, it would appear, as a big name smokescreen to hide the REAL dirty linen.

"My overall assessment is that the national cancer program must be judged a qualified failure," says Dr. John Bailer, who spent 20 years on the staff of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and was editor of its journal. Dr. Bailer also says: "The five year survival statistics of the American Cancer Society are very misleading. They now count things that are not cancer, and, because we are able to diagnose at an earlier stage of the disease, patients falsely appear to live longer. Our whole cancer research in the past 20 years has been a total failure. More people over 30 are dying from cancer than ever before . . . More women with mild or benign diseases are being included in statistics and reported as being 'cured'. When government officials point to survival figures and say they are winning the war against cancer they are using those survival rates improperly." http://www.pnc.com.au/~cafmr/online/research/cancer.html. Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Prize winner, was even more blunt: "Everyone should know that most cancer research is largely a fraud and that the major cancer research organisations are derelict in their duties to the people who support them."

American medicine has become almost synonymous with drugs. To hear the drug companies line every night on the evening news (where their ads and free infomercials abound), they have an answer to every ill...they are concerned, paternal outfits interested only in a "better life for America." The truth is very different from the million-buck a minute ads. In reality, the pharmaceutical industry in America can only be described as cutthroat - literally and figuratively. The competition is so intense and the corporations so secretive that the big companies have become more like the CIA - but, if anything, less principled - less concerned for the "collateral damage." The trouble is, for the American drug companies, collateral damage = patient life and suffering. Drugs known to be dangerous are rushed to market now, the results routinely fudged.http://www.drugawareness.org/Archives/2ndQtr_2001/4101Drug.html They are hyped endlessly through the mainstream media, which aids and abet the companies. Drug co. infomercials for new products are run on the nightly news as "Medical news." Then, some time later, when the body count starts to mount up for drugs whose deadly side effects were swept under the rug by tweaked results during drug trials and FDA folk "helping out" the drug barons, the drug is pulled, the companies sued. But, before the sh-t hits the fan, the companies make billions - more than enough to consider the subsequent lawsuits as a "cost of doing business." Case in point:

Baycol is a prime example of drug company evil: The drug was put out in 1998 and hyped relentlessly. You couldn't watch a TV show without seeing three ads..couldn't go into a doctor's office without seeing the slick literature or name sprinkled about (as on prescription forms provided by the co. as a freebie). The first deaths were reported within a year. Yet, despite maker Bayer's own evidence of the drug's danger, they continued to defend and sell the product, lobbying for approval of HIGHER doses. It was not until the confirmed death count reached 31, that Bayer withdrew the drug. In addition, by then, over 1000 cases of rhabdomyolysis or muscle weakness and/or damage were reported in association with the drug. Since then the death count and disability attributable to the drug has climbed. http://www.cepr.net/columns/baker/dying_for_patents.htm

But just a few weeks after the first big lawsuits were filed and the revenues started to dry up, Bayer's immediate money problems were solved by the oh-so-lucky coincidence of the anthrax attacks happening just then and the even better good fortune of having all the media pushing their product to a terrified America as the "only cure" for anthrax (Tom Brokaw even held his bottle like an old-fashioned carnival pitch man) - causing a huge run internationally on the drug. Of course it turns out Cipro was NOT the only drug that could treat anthrax - doxycycline, just a small fraction of the cost of Cipro, works just fine and with also just a fraction of the side effects of Cipro.

The cost of prescription drugs, in general, are inflated to a point that strains credibility, esp. when the same items go for half the cost in poorer nations. Worse yet, the drug companies use misleading advertising and product descriptions to convince doctors and their patients that a overpriced drug is the "best" remedy - one that may "save" them. Case in point: Plavix. Plavix (clopidogrel bisulfate) has been touted by iits makers (Sanofi Synthelabo and Bristol Myers Squibb as a wonder drug for preventing cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack. But the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that this heavily advertised and drug rep-pushed drug - which costs $3.02 a pill - is no more effective than aspirin, which costs 4 CENTS a pill. But Plavix, recently, accounted for an insane one-third of Sanofi Synthelabo's profits. Damn the consumer, full speed ahead. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/346/23/1800

The week before the terrorist attacks in Sept of 2001, an extremely critical expose' of the drug industry broke - and, of course, was quickly forgotten: Thirteen major medical journals from around the world joined forces to expose and condemn the manipulation of drug trial results by pharmaceutical companies. It seems the drug barons have been pressuring the university researchers who conduct drug trials into producing reports of results that will help gain drug approval. In some cases, the researchers are not given access to key data that might show an unfavorable result, or they are forced to use trial designss that will skew results to the drug company?s advantage while sacrificing accuracy. As a result, drugs with unknown, and sometimes ultimately lethal, side effects and questionable efficacy often make it far too quickly to market." (read whole story (date: 9/10) at http://democrats.com/view.cfm?id=4410

So what is the answer to this systematic abuse of Americans? For the Democrats to AGGRESSIVELY promote a universal healthcare system which guarantees that every American has an equal shot at healthcare. The misinformation about universal health care that is being spread by the insurance industry and their henchmen in the GOP is appalling. For example - promoting the lie that universal healthcare would bankrupt the government. What a joke - study after study has show that the cost of administering a centralized single-payer program would be LESS per citizen than the current ridiculous HMO system. In addition, the reduced number of lost days due to sickness and disability would be greatly reduced, as would the cost to the taxpayer of taking care of people who have gone without healthcare so long that they are, ultimately, thrown onto welfare or SSI unnecessarily. Healthcare MUST be independent of job. Corporate indiifference to employee wellbeing is notorious. Workers are routinely finding their providers changed, "edited" (as in covering less for more $) or the cost jacked up. Then, when the company decides to throw its workers over board so the overpaid CEOs can hoard the lifeboats, right in the midst of the stress of becoming jobless, workers are suddenly without access to healthcare. In Silicon Valley, the free clinic, once the only recourse for the very poor, is now having to try to find a larger building to accommodate the hundreds of jobless tech workers who benefits have run out.

Next, there MUST...and I cannot stress this enough...MUST MUST MUST be an independent agency that oversees the pharmaceutical industry. A board upon which NO drug or insurance industry employees - past or present - can sit. All donations to political candidates from the pharmaceutical industries, and ALL industries where human health is likely to be effected, must be BANNED, even if no other campaign finance reforms are made. Do this, and half the big lobbyist bucks thrown to candidates will be eliminated. In addition, legislation must be introduced that makes it illegal for anyone with any vested interest in the pharmaceutical industry and any other industry directly affecting human and environmental health to be appointed to any government position related to that industry. Right now, the Bush cabinet is stuffed with former pharmaceutical industry bigwig. Donald Rumsfeld's biggest claim to fame before coming into the White House and playing Geriatric General was calling in favors in Washington to insure that his company (Searle) was able to win FDA approval for its biggest cash cow of all time - aspartame ...DESPITE mounting evidence from trial results and medical testimony that the compound is NOT free from serious side effects. (the single biggest source of product health complaints filed with the FDA has, for years now, been re: aspartame).

In short, remove the incentive to screw America's health in favor of ready cash, and the abuses will decline. Do nothing, and disaster is just over the horizon. The aging of America - with more people living longer but not without chronic ailments (diabetes, heart disease, etc,, will all climb commensurately), a system without adequate healthcare in this scenario will be a nighmare...with America's social landscape resembling an impoverished eastern European nation from the 1950s more than the supposedly wealthiest, most "advanced" nation on Earth.