By Eli J. Fleischer • June 18, 2009

The universal health care issue has been kicked down from one administration to the next for a long time, and I no longer anticipate that it will be any different with the new administration. Just watch the news and read the papers: We are told that, God forbid, we don’t want the “bad” national health system they have in Canada or England. And yet, I think it will be very difficult to find a citizen in those countries willing to switch with us. We are told repeatedly that national health care does not, cannot, and will not work, it will be unaffordable, and we will be rationed or denied needed care, among other things. But wait, isn’t it pretty much what we currently endure in the United States?

We don’t need to reinvent universal health care from scratch; it works well in dozens of countries around the world, and we can simply adopt the best system ready to go. Maybe I’m overly simplistic about this, but if it works in other nations, large and small, rich and not so rich, why are we told it will not work here? We are fed scare talk and disinformation, paid for by private insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and political groups representing them; they stand to lose outrageous profits if we create a national health system, so nothing will be done to upset such powerful groups.

We are lost in a private health-insurance maze we call “choice,” but is it really? High premiums, limitations and co-pays that rise constantly, and lots of small print written by an army of lawyers designed to deny or cancel their obligation to pay for needed care, while requiring the filing of endless forms and paperwork so complex and time consuming that doctors and facilities must hire special personnel just to keep up. By contrast, medical professionals in countries with national health systems are not burdened with all this; their time is devoted solely to treating patients. What a concept! And contrary to what we are told, in those countries you can go to any doctor, hospital or clinic you want, and, if you can’t, a doctor, a nurse or a therapist will come to you. Wow, that’s really bad. I know all this from first-hand experience, so don’t let them scare you about national health system. It is long overdue, and is the most important thing any nation can have for its people; unconditional care for the health and well-being of its citizens, not as a privilege, but as a national right.

The United States is the only developed nation in the world without a universal health care system for its citizens. We spend the highest percentage of gross national product on health care in the world, while ranking far down the list in health measures such as longevity, infant mortality, heart disease, and general health of the population. We also rank at the top of the list for prescription drug consumption; more than 52 percent of the population take at least one or more prescription drug. And yet, we boast about having the best health care in the world, and I wonder why, and I wonder why we are not ashamed enough to change all this and do it now. So, I ask again: Please tell us, really, why is national health system bad for us?

The writer, whose spouse works in the health-care industry, lives in Hawthorne.