Disparities and high costs fuel the health care crisis

AMERICA’S HEALTH CRISIS is really three crises rolled into one. The first is public health: America’s life expectancy is now several years below that of many other countries, and, for some parts of the population, life expectancy is falling. The second is health inequality: The gaps in public health according to race and class are shockingly large. The third is health care cost: America’s health care is by far the costliest in the world.

Obamacare certainly did not solve these crises. Its main positive contribution has been to expand health coverage. Americans without health insurance fell from around 15.5 percent of the population in 2010 to around 9.1 percent today, a significant decline. Yet health care premiums are once again soaring, and the deeper causes of poor health are not being properly addressed. Obamacare amounted to a limited patch on a flawed system.

The numbers tell the story of the three crises. First, US health outcomes are actually below the averages of other high-income countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD. US life expectancy at birth in 2013 stood at 78.8 years, almost two years below the OECD average of 80.5 years. The United States also had higher-than-average infant mortality, a greater incidence of low-birth-weight babies, and a higher incidence of both breast cancer and prostate cancer.

– The Boston Globe

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