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Our health picture is not so rosy

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For early-in-the-year columns, it’s customary to recap the occasions of the previous 12 months, often highlighting a mixture of the nice and the unhealthy. Because 2020 was dominated by well being, specifically COVID-19, and my beat is well being, it appears becoming to mirror on the place we’re. Where we’re will not be good.

A headline within the Los Angeles Times appeared to sum up the present state of the U.S. well being care system: “Bodies pile up, patient care falters as COVID-19 devastates L.A. County hospitals.” In the Times’ story, a hospital important care nurse says, “No one would believe this is the United States.” Indeed, they might not.

A narrative from Wisconsin tells us {that a} hospital pharmacist intentionally destroyed some 500 doses of vaccine. This conduct, I dare say, would have been unprecedented in 1947 when New York City managed to vaccinate 5 million folks in opposition to smallpox in two weeks.

At the tip of 2020, the federal government’s purpose of vaccinating 20 million folks in opposition to COVID by the final day of December fell method quick, with solely 2.7 million doses administered. In some methods that’s hardly shocking, given how chaotic the entire COVID affair has been because the starting.

First, we failed to acknowledge how deadly the virus was; then we have been gradual to get testing up and working; subsequent got here issues with contact tracing as a result of Americans have been reluctant to cooperate. Lab outcomes have been delayed. Americans flouted the foundations and recommendation to remain dwelling, and on it went till we discover our nation in a really unenviable place initially of 2021.

Yet the mythology surrounding our well being care system — that it’s the finest on this planet — continues. This 12 months has proven that America, opposite to its self-image, doesn’t have the simplest and environment friendly well being care system on this planet. That’s a bitter tablet for a lot of Americans to swallow.

At the tip of December, a brand new research emerged within the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that additional deflates America’s standing. It discovered rich, white Americans typically have higher well being outcomes than the common U.S. citizen however typically worse outcomes than common residents in different higher-income nations. In different phrases, the U.S. continues to spend gobs of cash on well being care however doesn’t essentially get a more healthy inhabitants for its expenditures. Not numerous bang for the buck!

Two items I wrote in 2020 drove dwelling that time for me. They confirmed the inadequacy of well being look after too many rural Americans even in “normal” instances when there’s no virus lurking amongst us. One lady from a sparsely populated county in central Nebraska lately wrote to inform me concerning the lack of in-network medical doctors out there to individuals who be a part of Medicare Advantage plans. Those plans require seniors to make use of community physicians to get advantages. If they don’t, the result’s excessive out-of-pocket payments.

If folks in these sparsely populated areas don’t have medical doctors who cross muster with their insurance coverage firm, what number of go with out care?

Another piece I wrote mentioned federally certified well being facilities, which serve many low-income communities throughout the nation. Doctors at one such well being heart in western Nebraska serve 17 low-population counties, and sufferers drive many miles to see a health care provider. Those medical doctors additionally report they study extra sufferers for dental issues than for different medical points. That speaks to lack of entry to oral well being look after method too many Americans. That’s one other well being drawback policymakers brush off.

Although the pandemic has uncovered critical flaws in America’s well being care preparations, possibly, simply possibly, it should spark a critical nationwide dialogue concerning the type of well being system we wish for everybody when the postmortem on COVID-19 is completed.

In the meantime, all of us must determine learn how to get examined, get vaccinated and keep secure with out numerous dependable data to information us alongside the best way. Because a lot of the knowledge from the federal authorities has been politicized, I turned to the web site of Britain’s National Health Service, www.nhs.uk, which I’ve visited and written about a number of instances.

It is a mannequin of readability and good details about COVID. For instance, the recommendation for pregnant ladies and people fascinated with turning into pregnant was the clearest I’ve seen. The web site additionally tells guests when it was final up to date and when the following replace might be.

That web site exhibits how a lot better America may very well be.

Trudy Lieberman, a journalist for 40 years, is a fellow on the Center for Advancing Health. Has the Affordable Care Act impacted your loved ones? Write to Trudy at trudy.lieberman@gmail.com. Send feedback to dr-editorial@greenfield reporter.com.

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