It's getting kind of scary when the people that are known as entertainers make more sense on political problems than the politicians. Percival Press, http://www.percevalpress.com/ a small independent publisher founded by photographer, free form poet, artist and actor Viggo Mortensen has a home page that reprints and links to articles in mid stream to liberal newspapers, magazines and websites. Mortensen enters an occaisional essay himself, tagged with a inobtrusve lower case v.m. The man is articulate and the entries are usually well written. Tom Cruise aside, there's a wealth of people out there trying to make a difference. Following is Mortensen's essay on the health care crisis in this country. Now if we could just get the politicians to speak as clearly.
According to the journal Health Affairs, the U.S. spent two and a half times more per capita on health care for its citizens than the average industrialized country did in 2003, and it lagged at least a dozen years behind all other industrialized countries in adopting electronic health records.* Just a couple of weeks ago, a study in the journal of the American Medical Association reported that, although our per-person health care cost is nearly double that of England, Americans, regardless of income, have more diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems and many other diseases than do the English. The fact that millions of Americans cannot afford health care insurance and therefore do not seek regular necessary medical attention surely is partly to blame. If you try to save money in the short term by not regularly servicing your car, you will find that it won't function very well in the long term, and that you will incur great expense trying to fix the situation. The same goes for your body.
Lack of political will and leadership is the reason our health care system has not evolved and kept apace of those of other industrialized countries - not logistics particular to the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />United States, as many politicians and health care industry lobbyists would have you believe. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 80 percent of Americans regard universal health care as more important than holding down taxes.* You don't hear this reflected much in political discourse on Capitol Hill or by the health care industry, because the political and corporate elite see little chance of preserving a flawed system that is highly profitable for them -- regardless of the fact that it severely handicaps the vast majority of Americans -- if an honest discussion about making that system fair and efficient is allowed. Enormous profits go to drug companies, private medical administration businesses and insurance companies in the U.S.A., from overpriced drugs, superfluous bureaucracy and other inefficiencies.
Among the most revered of teachings in any religion or spiritual code of ethics, including those attributed to Jesus Christ, is the admonition to care for the least fortunate among us. This lesson seems to have gone unheeded by any in the health care and insurance business, and, most tellingly, by the politicians who do their often uncharitable and obstructionist bidding. This is especially galling in light of how many of these same politicians regularly trumpet their avowed Christian values as badges of honor and electibility.
People cannot be mentally focused, positive and actively engaged citizens if they are constantly worried that the only thing keeping them from financial ruin is to dangerously delay seeking or altogether deny themselves and their dependents necessary medical attention. It seems that many in the political arena seem content to have citizens not able to focus too much on monitoring the government's operation and ethical conduct. It is certainly easier for political and corporate operators to steer the average citizen's attention, through costly public relations stunts, away from truly pressing issues (like health care) when that citizen is preoccupied with scrambling financially to cope with illness and the natural consequences of physical and mental aging in his or her family. Daily concern about health care costs is, unfortunately, a significant problem for most people in the United States. Additionally, the debilitating distraction of worrying that one literally cannot afford to become seriously ill undoubtedly adds stress that can increase one's chances of becoming ill -- a vicious cycle indeed.
When disease and decay that sooner or later have to be faced by every one of us become one more unaffordable risk, something is seriously wrong. Doctors are also constantly put in awkward positions by this state of affairs. They cannot be expected, through occasional acts of individual charity to patients who cannot afford needed care, and in spite of suffocating amounts of unnecessary paperwork, to make up for the serious shortcomings of our antiquated and, for most Americans, prohibitively expensive health care system. These are not signs of a modern, democratic society. The present situation, however, is as avoidable as it is barbaric. The remedies are willpower and integrity. If we do not demand a serious effort from our political representatives, nothing much will change anytime soon. It is up to us, as always, to make government responsive to our needs and rights as citizens. You know the drill: Inform yourself, and join with others in your home, your town, and on the street in making your feelings and ideas known. Regularly write, call, and email your representatives. Above all, VOTE, and encourage your friends and family to vote for responsible candidates. There is no other way within the system we have, boring as that may sound to some. - v.m.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> I especially love the last sentence. I can't say this lound enough, Vote, vote vote. As least it earns you bitching rights.