Why Cuba Has a Higher Life Expectancy - the Tattered US Healthcare System

A survey compared the United States with 10 other advanced countries. The Netherlands came out on top; the United States dead last.

So frequently is the word 'freedom' employed in the political vernacular, it has come to mean whatever the listener desires.  For Mr. Trump, it is one word in the volcanic plume countering a society's rhythm, designed to attract attention. That he has garnered in spades, enough to win him the highest office in the land.

To many, freedom is an absence of worry. The desire and need for a social fabric knit well to support the basic prerequisites: food, shelter, health and education.  None of them charity, because they are an investment in the fundamental source of a society's well-being: human capital.  

The selfishness of the haves has contributed to a loss of competitiveness. The old GM was paying US$100-$200 per car in health insurance costs, and manufacturers were also forced to provide remedial education for high school graduates to enter the world of complex modern manufacturing. Neither was a similar burden on competitors from Japan and Germany. Suffice to say though that this was not the only reason for problems.

But selfishness is not all with regard to healthcare, the focus of this piece. The biggest culprit by far is general complacency. Added to a Republican majority in Congress and Donald Trump, there is little hope in the near future.

Reading about healthcare recently, I came across an article in a prestigious magazine offering a solution. Affiliated to Stanford, the authors were an MD/MBA candidate and a venture capitalist adjunct. It says it all. Why would a doctor want an MBA? It is not an uncommon program, by the way. The answer is simple and obvious: the medical profession is big business. Did the authors have a prescription? Indeed they did. Force everyone to have insurance and force insurers to insist on primary care.

As a percent of GDP, the United States spends more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation. Yet it lags far behind in measures like child and maternal mortality, life expectancy and chronic illness.

A survey last November by the New York based Commonwealth Fund compared the United States with 10 other advanced countries. The Netherlands came out on top; the United States dead last. By coincidence, the Dutch are the tallest people on earth. "U.S. adults are sicker and have the highest rates of material hardship," observed Robin Osborn who led the survey.

Of note, despite dilapidated facilities in Cuba, universal healthcare has paid off.  Life expectancy is higher than the U.S. by about a year.

The slogan 'Medicare for all' is catchy, and, were it to happen, would transform healthcare. All the same, Medicare has gaps throwing people back into the arms of insurers, and into the morass of bills from hospitals, accounting by insurers as to what is covered, and arguments back and forth; not to mention overcharges by hospitals, which have their own litany of unbelievable tales.

In the British system - under attack by the Conservatives for some time and being gradually dismantled - no one ever sees a bill. It allowed post Second World War generations of poor and disadvantaged to bring up healthy, educated children who contributed to the growth of the country.

If there is an answer to the problems in the U.S. system, it will have to come from independent experts. Profit oriented hospital corporations buying up community hospitals and headed by multi-million salaried CEOs is not the answer.  Neither are for-profit insurers. Who has the guts to pour 'liquid plumber' down this clogged-up drain? That is the real question. The Canadian politician who fought for their healthcare system is a national hero. Any takers here?

Dr Arshad M Khan is a former Professor whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.

  • Published in Specials

WHO splurges more on posh travel than it spends on fighting AIDS & malaria – report

The UN’s World Health Organization ponies up some $200 million a year for luxury travel, including first-class tickets and posh hotels – much more than it spends on combatting AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria, the AP has revealed.

According to internal files obtained by the news agency, since 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) has allocated $803 million for travel – approximately $200 million per year. The WHO’s two-billion-dollar annual budget is made up of contributions made by 194 member countries, of which the US is the largest sponsor.

 
© RT

Last year, the WHO allocated just over $60 million to tackling malaria and $59 million to containing the spread of tuberculosis, while $71 million was spent on fighting AIDS and hepatitis. Programs aimed at containing certain diseases, such as polio, do get considerably larger funding, however, with $450 million allocated annually.

Though the organization has been struggling to achieve its goals, while at the same time appealing for more financing, its employees and top brass apparently do not shy away from booking first-class airline tickets and rooms in luxurious five-star hotels.

In particular, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Executive Director Bruce Aylward are first and second on the list of the agency’s top spenders, according to a confidential 25-page analysis of the WHO’s expenses seen by AP.

When Chan recently went to Guinea following a successful effort to stop an outbreak of Ebola there, she stayed in the biggest presidential suite at the Palm Camayenne hotel in Conakry, with the price per night amounting to €900 ($1,008). To avoid bumpy roads, Aylward opted to use a chopper to reach clinics on several occasions. 

During the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the WHO allocated $234 million to employee travel. Some experts told AP the agency should have sent more money to the poor region – where authorities couldn’t even afford protective gear or soap for medical staff or body bags for the victims – rather than deploy its own staff at such a high cost.

 
Reuters/Charles Platiau

“There’s a huge inequality between the people at the top who are getting helicopters and business class and everyone else who just has to make do,” said Sophie Harman, a global health politics expert at London-based Queen Mary University.

The UN agency admits that its budget policy had allowed for the director-general to fly first class until February, but said the spending rules have been changed and the first-class option has been effectively eliminated.

However, the organization’s own findings suggest that traveling in comfort is widespread among employees. One internal memorandum sent to WHO executives reported that compliance with a rule requiring all travel to be booked in advance was “very low.” An internal analysis accessed by the AP stated that only two of seven WHO departments at the Geneva headquarters had met their budget targets.

Interestingly, other aid agencies spend less on travel. For instance, Doctors Without Borders explicitly forbids its staff from traveling business class, and even its president flies economy class, a spokeswoman told AP.

Employing about 37,000 aid workers, Doctors Without Borders spends about $43 million a year on travel. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it does not normally allow staffers to book business class flights and only sanctions it in special cases, such as medical emergencies.

  • Published in World

Obama urges Congress to show 'courage' on healthcare

Former President Barack Obama, in his first public comments about the ongoing debate over his signature healthcare plan, implored members of Congress on Sunday to demonstrate political courage even if it goes against their party's positions.

Obama briefly returned to the spotlight as he accepted the annual John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at JFK's presidential library in Boston. The award is named for a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Kennedy that profiled eight U.S. senators who risked their careers by taking principled though unpopular positions.

In his approximately 30-minute speech after accepting the award, Obama steered clear of partisan attacks and never mentioned his successor, President Donald Trump, who has often criticized the previous administration and has worked to undo many of Obama's initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act.The former president recalled members of Congress who voted to pass the ACA during his presidency, only to lose their seat in later elections.
 
 
Obama made no direct reference to Thursday's House vote to dismantle much of the healthcare law but declared that while it did not take courage to help the rich and powerful, it did require courage to help the sick and vulnerable.
 
"It is my fervent hope and the hope of millions ... such courage is still possible, that today's members of Congress regardless of party are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it contradicts party positions," said Obama, whose appeal seemed to focus on wavering Republicans.
 
 
 
 

 

 
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the few Republicans to attend the dinner, told reporters the Senate would write its own version of the legislation and he did not expect the House bill to survive intact.

The former president focused much of his address on the legacy of President Kennedy as the library prepared to mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth this month. Obama noted the Kennedys had long advocated for healthcare reform, and in particular, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died of brain cancer before passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Among the guests who made their way down the red carpet into the library for the event were representatives of the Kennedy family, members of Congress, former Obama staffers and celebrities including former late-night talk show host David Letterman. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State John F. Kerry also were in attendance.

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Obama earned the award by meeting many challenges that faced him during his presidency.

"It's about understanding the challenges we face as a country and as a planet and mustering the political will to do what is right even if what is right at that moment isn't necessarily popular," said Kennedy, a harsh critic of the GOP health overhaul plan.

Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter who served as Ambassador to Japan, and Jack Schlossberg, Kennedy's grandson, presented the award.

Schlossberg, 24, and planning to attend Harvard Law School, said Obama inspired him the way an earlier generation was inspired by his grandfather.

"Without Barack Obama, I might still be sitting on my couch, eating Doritos and watching sports," he said.

Though the former president has steered away from any involvement in U.S. affairs during his early months out of office, he forayed into the French political debate last week by posting a message of endorsement for centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who defeated his far right rival Marine Le Pen in Sunday's election.

On Monday, Obama travels to Italy to give a keynote address on climate change and food security at Tuesday's Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan.

  • Published in World

Cuba Ensures Care for People with Disability

Geneva, Oct 4 (Prensa Latina) Cuba guarantees particular attention to people with disabilities, based on the support of government institutions and civil society, according to reports delivered during the Social Forum that continues today in Geneva.

Convened by the UN Human Rights Council, the event began yesterday and runs to tomorrow. The aim of which is to promote debate among actors in civil society.

Addressing the forum, the President of the Cuban National Association of the Deaf, Alejandro Marzo Peña, said that the Caribbean nation has a National Action Plan which includes commitments established, assuring programs and development strategies, regulated and controlled by the National Council for the Care of People with Disabilities.

The strong movement is well structured to guarantee the rights of citizens with this condition, he said.

Marzo Peña also said that access to the health and education systems is a right guaranteed to every Cuban.

He also highlighted 'the rights of people with disabilities included in the Social Security Act, Motherhood and the Labor Code, whose benefits are extended to all workers, including those in the non-state sector.'

In particular reference to employment, he said that access to it is ensured without any discrimination and in accordance with functional capacities, adaptive skills and training.

The representative of the Caribbean nation said that his country had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a document that has been released to all civil society.

  • Published in Cuba
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