Newborn Mortality

Newborn Mortality And The Hidden Health Care Story

Health Care, Human Rights 3

A new study published by PLoS Medicine tracks newborn mortality rates in 193 countries from 1990 to 2009. While newborn deaths worldwide declined by 1.3 million – 4.6 to 3.3 million – from 1990 to 2009, the newborn mortality rate in the United States ranks higher than 40 other countries.

I think there is a hidden story behind the study and the headlines. It’s a story about the growing wealth gap in this country and its effect on the medical care people receive – or don’t receive. The largest contributor to personal bankruptcies in this country is medical costs. We have a broken health care system in this country. Actually we don’t have a health care system at all in this country. Even with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 we still don’t have a universal health care system. Instead we have a patchwork of payment systems, providers and private for-profit bureaucracy.

For the United States to rank so low on newborn mortality speaks to the growing number of people in this country that struggle each day to pay the bills, making decisions to forgo medical treatment because they lack sufficient funds. We aren’t talking about a few hundred thousand people or even a few million people, that would already be tragic. No, we are talking about tens of millions of people in this country falling through the cracks. Most of these people have jobs and work hard but can’t afford sufficient health care coverage. Many more are out of work and have no coverage at all. This country has the ability with it’s vast resources and it’s wealth to create a real universal health care system that ensures everybody has access to medical treatment when they need it. How many more people could receive health care coverage in this country on just the profits of the health care insurance industry? Why is it acceptable to make a profit on the financing of medical treatment?

A book I recommend reading is The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care – by T. R. Reid. The author explains his experiences with the health care systems of several countries including Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and India. It’s a good read and really informative about the different ways in which health care is practiced and paid for around the globe. Reid doesn’t advocate any specific system or country as a model for a new health care system for the United States. He believes it is up to us to combine the best aspects of all systems for a truly unique universal health care system for the U.S.

If American exceptionalism is real will we allow so many in this country to continue to fear bankruptcy just to see a doctor?


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David K. Sutton

Chief Writer and Editor of The Left Call - I'm a full-time IT engineer, part-time political blogger. I founded The Left Call in 2011 because I believe in social justice, economic equality, and the idea of forming a more perfect union. In addition to written content, I also host the LEFT CALL RADIO Podcast.

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  • http://askcherlock.com askcherlock

    This is yet another pox on our country. Planned Parenthood, which is not just about abortions though it is perceived that way, has had funding cut. Parents are mandated to produce records that their children have been inoculated against measles, whooping cough, mumps and others. But these shots cost money, so where do they go? Often free health clinics, those few that still exist are in the city, and in our city at least, public transportation funds have been cut as well. We rank far lower than we should in education and now in health. It is appalling to anyone who is not a Conservative. They, of course, see public health care systems as nothing more than whining people “on the dole,” a term I never thought I would hear again.

  • Krys

    Did you know that in some places, even when you can buy insurance, they still don’t cover maternity care? Yep, at least according to my insurance agent, in the state of DE I cannot buy a non-group, employer sponsored, health insurance plan that covers prenatal care and maternity costs. You cannot even buy a maternity rider. I find this appalling, sexist, and completely illogical. The PPAC act required coverage for all children regardless of pre-existing conditions. It seems to me that you could save some money in the long run by making sure those children are born healthy by providing their mothers with proper prenatal care. I won’t even get into all the non-insurance reasons why we have a higher mortality rate.

  • http://leftcall.com David K. Sutton

    askcherlock: Planned Parenthood is perceived that way by the misinformed, but of course you know that. ;) This country is indeed falling behind in numerous areas but it seems anytime it’s pointed out the response from a certain group is that we are the best country on earth. Discovering where we are failing and learning about the things other countries are doing right is not weakness, it’s strength.

    Krys: This is what you get when you let “the market” figure it out instead of having oversight from an entity that has the sole responsibility of promoting the general welfare of the nation.

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