Two recent TV interviews shed light on the state of the U.S. health care system.

In the first, Ms. T. Page, a middle-aged woman from Texas, told an ABC news reporter that, in spite of having asthma, emphysema, diabetes and high blood pressure, she had not been able to see a doctor for two years “because I don’t have enough money to pay for a doctor and to buy the prescribed medications.” Later in the broadcast, the reporter mentioned that millions of Americans, especially women, are in the same situation.

A few weeks later Ms. D. Gallaway, a senior citizen, told the same reporter she has not been able to pay for her medications, despite the fact she is suffering from heart and pulmonary disorders. Later in the broadcast the reporter announced that 22 percent of U.S. senior citizens have not been able to buy prescription drugs and that more than 45 million people lack any health insurance and millions more are inadequately covered – this in spite of a national expenditure of more than a trillion dollars a year on health care.

This is the model that, according to the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, must be implemented throughout the world. This is but one aspect of the policies that are gradually being put in place on a global scale.

This is the model, which Dr. Gyatt, professor of medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, described in an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail: “Patients arrive in the early morning, ready to camp out for the day. When the clinic – at this Chicago public hospital – closes, they may still be waiting. The doctors, pressured by the huge burden, predictably rush through their day with little time for their patients.”

That is the fate of the uninsured. But even if a patient is wealthy and has insurance, Gyatt said, she or he “must first tell her story over the phone to a staff member with minimal training. If the story is good enough, the caller gets to see the doctor. If not, the staff member consults a manual that she has been given to manage conditions for which the doctor in not necessary.”

And if she or he is “fortunate enough to slip through the barriers, she is in luck.”

Gyatt said that even with such luck, “study after study has shown that U.S. for-profit hospitals are less efficient than non-profit institutions, costing 25 percent more than public hospitals to deliver the same care.”

This is a system dedicated to profit rather than care and, like other for-profit businesses, depends on the law of supply and demand. And here, demands are nothing more than the misfortunes of sick people. Therefore, this system is naturally pro-sickness and downplays preventive measures.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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