A doctor in Western New York has a unique solution to the health care crisis in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last May the Department of Veterans Affairs was rocked by a nation-wide scandal when the news media published reports that employees at VA medical facilities in Phoenix, Arizona had falsified appointment records to hide the fact that thousands of veterans had waited for months to be seen for treatment. At least one veteran, and possibly as many as 40 veterans, died as a result of not being able to get an appointment.
In August, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he wants to eliminate the VA. That was his way of solving the health care crisis in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Rather than fix the problem, Carson would sweep it under the rug and throw the veterans out on the street.
But the doctor in New York told one of his patients last week that the solution to the VA health care crisis is for the United States to implement a universal health care system like the universal health care systems already in place in the rest of the civilized world. For example, every country in Western Europe has a universal health care system, and so does Canada. Moreover, implementing a universal health care system would almost certainly improve the quality of health care in the US.
According to a study published in 2010 by the World Health Organization (WHO), The political economy of universal health coverage, the US health care system lags behind much of the world. The scientific study is a detailed analysis of the health care systems in 194 countries worldwide. Of the 194 countries in the study, 75 countries had legislation that provided a mandate for universal health care.
Moreover, 58 of those countries met the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for access, quality, and outcome criteria for universal health care: Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
Think about that. According to the World Health Organization, Mongolia has a better health care system than the United States. That’s sad, especially when you look at the map on page 15 of the WHO study The political economy of universal health coverage that shows which countries do and do not have a universal health care system. The US does not have a universal health care system, and neither do the most of the countries in Africa, most of the countries in Central and South America, and most of the countries in Asia.
Of course, supporters of the current US health care system, including all of the current Republican presidential candidates, will downplay the report and insist that the US has the best health care system in the world. But, unfortunately that argument doesn’t hold water. The facts simply don’t support that view.
For example, according to the World Health Organization study maternal mortality is one of the basic indicators of healthcare access. But according to a recent global survey of maternal mortality Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015, published by the United Nations and the World Bank, women in the United States are twice as likely to die from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth than women in Canada.
The United States was also one of only 13 countries to have worse rates of maternal mortality in 2015 than in 1990. That puts the US health care system right down there with North Korea and Zimbabwe; two other countries that don’t have a universal health care system.
Canada has a unique universal health care system. Each of Canada’s ten provinces and three Territories administers its own health care system. Yet the maternal mortality rate in Canada is half of what the maternal mortality is in the United States. Over the past 25 years, the maternal mortality average in the United States has slipped from 12 deaths per 100,000 live births, to 14 per 100,000 live births. Meanwhile Canada maternal mortality average is 7 deaths per 100,000 live births, the same rate it had in 1990.
The doctor in Western New York may be onto something. If the United States implemented a universal health care system, it might kill two birds with one stone. It could solve the VA health care crisis and it might improve the maternal mortality in this country.