How capitalist health care lets women die

A yearlong debate on health care reform centered on costs and on methods for extending insurance coverage. Lobbying, congressional posturing, and media focus on deal making were boundless. Missing was any notion of health care serving people rather than interests.

In particular, the issue of staving off of death was left for another day. The fact that the U.S A. ranks 46th in the world on infant mortality and 34th in life expectancy sparked little interest in the centers of power.

On March 12, nine days before the House of Representatives passed its health care reform bill, Amnesty International (AI) released a report on skyrocketing death rates affecting U.S. mothers during pregnancy and childbirth.

According to "Deadly Delivery, The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA," 101 pages long, the United States ranks 41st in maternal mortality. Between 1987 and 2006, the U.S. rate doubled, from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 births to 13.3 deaths. The Washington, D.C rate is 34.9; that for Black women in New York City, 83.6.

The maternal mortality rate (MMR) reflects the number of women per 100, 000 births dying during pregnancy, or shortly thereafter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half such deaths are preventable.

The rate of one in 47,600 Irish women dying during childbirth is the world's best. The comparable U. S. figure is one in 4,800. Of more than 536,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2005, 99 percent occurred in poor countries. One Millennium Development Goal calls for a three-quarters reduction in the MMR between 1990 and 2015.

The AI report  howed close to death episodes from pregnancy-related complications increasing by 25 percent over 12 years. Since there is no federal requirement for reporting childbirth deaths, the numbers of U.S. women dying may have been underestimated.

That means life threatening conditions like hypertension, diabetes, heart conditions, and fetal abnormalities often go unrecognized. Lack of prenatal care, which applies to one third of African American and Native American women, quadruples maternal mortality.

The report says, "Discrimination is costing lives... [W]omen face barriers to care, especially women of color, those living in poverty, Native American and immigrant women." Overall, 25 percent of U.S. women of reproductive age lack health insurance, of which half are women of color. African-American women's risk of death during childbirth is four times that of white women.
The reports protests shortages of health care workers in rural and inner city areas. It highlights Cesarean sections accounting for one in three births, twice the level recommended by the World Health Organization. Caesarian sections present three times the lethal risk of vaginal births. Capabilities for monitoring maternal deaths are lacking in 29 states and in Washington D.C.

AI spokesperson Larry Cox denounced a "haphazard approach to maternal care" that is "scandalous and disgraceful." "Mothers die not because the United States can't provide good care, but because it lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women."
The report states that "no legislation currently under consideration would realize the human rights standards of making health care available" to all. Reform "primarily focused on health care coverage and reducing health care costs... will still leave millions without access to affordable care," said Rachel Ward, one of the report's authors. Effects of discrimination, lack of government interest in safe deliveries, and neglect of "nationally standardized [preventative] protocols" will prevail.

The United States last year supported a UN resolution establishing safe birthing as a right associated with "the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls." The U.N. sponsored Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination charged the United States, however, with failing to eliminate racial inequalities, "particularly with regard to the high maternal and infant mortality rates."

Meanwhile, hospitalizations related to pregnancy and childbirth cost $86 billion annually, a top revenue producing area in hospitals. The average 2008 salary for employed obstetricians ranged between $231,514 and $304,689, according to internet estimates.

Commenting on the U.S. government passing health care reform applying to most of its citizens, former Cuban President Fidel Castro observed that Cuba had attended to health care "for its entire population half a century ago, despite the cruel and inhumane blockade all of its citizens."



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  • I agree with sister Malone. The U.S. does not recognize healthcare as a basic human right as does most of the world. The U.S. still does not support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights supported by the U.N. in 1948. This document covers healthcare, education, political rights and labor rights amongst others.

    What is so sad is that the Republicans were NOT alone in defeating single payer/Medicare For All. Not even the White House would permit discussion of this concept. Max Baucus (d) the chair of the Senate Finance Commmittee had Medicare For All activists ejected from the Senate building and arrested by D.C. cops just for daring to question him as to why single payer was not even discussed! So much for change.

    My prediction is that within the next five years (hopefully sooner) we will once again be demanding REAL healthcare reform in this country! Unfortunatley we will once again have to contend with the HMOs and their deep pockets that buy off politicians, liberal and conservative alike! Got third party anyone?

    Posted by Pancho Valdez, 04/06/2010 12:35pm (6 years ago)

  • As a retired Nurse I was very unhappy but not surprised to read this report. I am very angry that this came out before the final vote on Health Care and should have sparked a huge out cry from the members of both houses of Congress for Universal Health Care. Instead not one member of the Republican party cared enough to stand out from the crowd and say We can and must do better. This is outrageous as it shows how little any of our elected officials care about the health and well being of all of the citizens of this country. The "New" Health Care bill still leaves so many many of our citizens uninsured while funneling billions of dollars in to the hands of the Insurance companies. Washington has a bad habit of rewarding the very people who created the crisis in the first place. Look at the pharmaceutical industry and the Medicare drug program. Instead of getting low cost drugs like the rest of the world Medi-care pays the pharmaceutical company outrageous amounts of money which is the very reason seniors needed the drug coverage in the first place. I don't think I really have to mention the Banking industry and Wall street as we all know how that is playing out. Once again Us citizens are being taken for a ride at gun point while our woman and children are dying in huge numbers from lack of health care. This new Health Care bill will not do much anytime soon to reverse these latest statistics and we as a nation should be ashamed that we let things get this bad. Thank you W.T. Whitney for once agin drawing our attention to the dire straights of woman and children in our country.

    Posted by Sheila Malone, 04/02/2010 10:05pm (6 years ago)

  • This is a very excellent article that W.T. Whitney has written for working people,highlighting the health status of working women in particular,it measures the gravity of a vast problem,one involving the especially oppressed.
    This article lays the spade work for a really massive movement,which would be people led,which would protect children of the especially oppressed. In this way,it looks to the future and distinguishes itself as a communist way of approaching tasks,and future tasks.
    Brother Whitney has also given careful and constructive criticism to Party international questions in this pre-convention period.
    The future of these United States of America hinges on women's and children's health issues in a basic way.
    Let the CPUSA emerge as a leader among organizations in this area,as it will if analyses like the one done here are continued.
    Finally,it puts the question in an international context,where we should in no small way do,to place our cause there,as the problem of the children's health of any country is too important an issue to not be an issue in every country.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 04/02/2010 5:41am (6 years ago)

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