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More Americans Dying From Lack of Health Insurance Than In Iraq

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More Americans are dying needlessly every day in the United States because of President Bush's failure to provide universal health coverage than are being killed in the fighting in Iraq.

The U.S. has suffered 3,000 dead in Mr. Bush's charnel house (actually, add about 300 more if you count corporate soldiers-of-fortune) but their numbers beggar in comparison to the numbers of Americans dying on the home front. I refer, of course, to the fact that the vast shift of Americans' tax dollars to the military-industrial complex is starving this nation of essential public services, notably health care, and untold numbers of Americans are dying every day for the want of it, far more than the two or ten soldiers whose names turn up in the Pentagon's casualty lists from Iraq.

Yes, just as the Pentagon does not do body counts of murdered Iraqis, George W. Bush is not the sort of man to count how many Americans are dying each day on his watch because he doesn't give a rat's rear end for establishing a universal health care system in which all human beings are treated equal, as befits their humanity. I don't know what the number is but I can guarantee you the number of Americans dying for want of health care every day is not two or six or twelve. "Yes!" magazine author Ruth van Gelder reports an estimated 18,000 Americans die annually just from lack of medical coverage. Further, the U.S. ranks 37th of 190 countries in a World Health Organization survey of health care systems. Indeed, natives of 27 other countries outlive Americans.

Writing in the January "The Progressive," Editor Matthew Rothschild cites an article by Nancy Krieger in "The American Journal of Public Health" stating, for some diseases studied, "more than 50 percent of cases would not have occurred" if people were not living in such poor neighborhoods. Krieger, an associate professor who heads up the Geocoding Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, writes, "Social inequality kills. It unduly deprives individuals and communities experiencing social deprivation of their health, increases their burden of disaiblity and disease, and cuts short their lives."

Rothschild reports, "Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of Americans said they had problems paying their medical bills," and of those, more than 60 percent actually had health insurance," according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report from 2005. "Nearly three in ten(29%) adults reported that they or someone in their household skipped medical treatment, cut pills, or did not fill a prescription in the past year because of the cost." (A third of Americans means 100-million people; I repeat, people.) It's been estimated that 50-million Americans have no insurance coverage whatever and this lack is a primary cause of driving up the bankruptcy rates.

President Bush has got billions for Iraq but there's no money in our cities for the community hospitals that are going broke, not enough money for millions of elderly to buy their medications or see a doctor, not enough money for millions of Americans to keep from going hungry, and, consequently, being sickened from poor nutrition. (Actually, the Bush Agriculture Department is abolishing "hunger" by switching to the phrase "very low food security".) The president no more cares that Americans, by a two to one margin, believe it's Washington's responsibility to guarantee health care for all than he cares that Americans, by about the same margin, want our troops out of Iraq.

Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, societal needs are being sacrificed on the Pentagon's altar of military adventurism. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says the true cost of the Iraq war to the American people could prove to be $3-trillion. Yes, it's not just the Iraqis who are suffering financially.

Of course, the Iraqis are paying a terrible financial price as well as a dreadful price in human lives, having lost an estimated 650,000 civilians to date, if you believe impartial counts. Be assured, Iraqis are being slickly parted from their oil revenues under new contracts engineered by our Big Oil President and our Big Oil Vice President. Vast numbers of Iraqis have lost their jobs, half the work force is unemployed, and the rest fearful of traveling to work in the morning. A million Iraqis, including large numbers of doctors and their families who have the cash to relocate, have fled the country leaving their homes behind and are paying the cost of disrupted lives as they attempt to start over as refugees on foreign soil.

But Americans are paying, too. The U.S. may produce bumper crops of corn, wheat, and, yes, marijuana, but the biggest cash crop of all are the toiling taxpayers who get harvested by Washington every April 17th to the tune of $1-trillion. For every thousand dollars they owe to state government for providing essential services, every American man, woman and child is now in debt to Washington to the tune of $25,000, much of the entertainment bill run up by George Bush & His Oilmen Band and for which the public gets nothing back but coffins arriving from a country that never attacked us, never threatened us, and would never have done unto us as we have done unto them.

And so America slides down the Humanity Scale from Bad to Worse. As Rothschild puts it, "For too long we've let ourselves be hornswoggled by politicians who play the budget blackmail game, who say the country can't afford to give people universal health care, the country can't afford to let all students get a free college education, the country can't afford to eliminate poverty." (Ah, but can we ever afford a war!)

There are many ways to resolve the nation's health care crisis. Personally, my option would be to extend the fine health care currently being provided by the nation's VA hospitals to all citizens, not just veterans. Whatever, an end must be made to the practice of dumping the cost of health care onto the backs of employers. And it must be accompanied by guaranteeing a basic income and decent food and housing for every family, and a college education or government employment or job training for every person in need of them.

Instead of bankrupting the American people with its illegal wars based on transparent lies, Washington needs to provide for our own. Chauvanistic or not, I say, "America first!"
(Sherwood Ross is an American reporter and columnist. Reach him at
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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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