President Obama had several opportunities during the televised congressional discussions on health care, to correct emphatic assertions by Republicans that we have the best health care in the world. He failed to do so.
True, we may be on the cutting edge in the innovative, highly technical procedures required by world leaders, but according to the statistics provided in the anything-but-liberal Economist’s yearly Pocket World in Figures, the United States is in 41st place among the almost two hundred countries of the world when it comes to life expectancy (two places behind Cuba, by the way).
When it comes to infant mortality, we are not among the lowest twenty-five, and we are in third place when it comes to obesity among men, eighth place among women. We are not among the eighteen countries that have the lowest number of population per doctor (Cuba comes in second, and among the industrialized countries on the list are Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands and Austria.) Obviously, some countries who have more doctors per head may not provide optimum care, such as Russia or Greece, but the fact that the United States spends roughly one and a half times as much as the members of the European Union should be broadcast more widely than it is.
Obama’s failure to rebut affirmations that we have the best health care in the world is not only a failure of honesty. It strengthens the position of those who believe that the main problem with our health care system is its cost. Low numbers in favor of major reform include those who consider single payer to be the only solution, and those who, when false affirmations are aloud to stand, say: “If our health care is ‘the best’, we could allow ourselves to spend less without putting the health of the population in danger, right?