Sunday, August 19, 2012

A great life if you don't weaken

WE often hear that "America Leads the Way", which can be a worrying thought in several contexts. And here is one of them. In the world's richest country - and sure, we don't deny that people from poorer places desperately try to get in there to work for a piece of that wealth - millions of people cannot afford to go sick, or take time off to take care of their children.

That's on top of the fact that millions - possibly the same folks by and large - have no healthcare provision nor access to treatment.

For anyone who thinks it does not matter, because they are covered, here's a thought from Brooklyn councilman Brad Lander, taken from his election address:
Today, over a million working New Yorkers have no paid so sick days. Many work in places where disease is most likely to spread -- one survey showed that 84% of restaurant workers have no paid sick days, and more than half report going to work sick. Its bad for workers, bad for families, and bad for public health.

Brad was taking up the issue at city level, but of course it is a nationwide question.

Civic Engagement campaigners who are campaigning for paid sick leave say:

According to a "recent report" by the Center for Economic Policy and Research, the United States is the only industrial nation that does not guarantee paid sick leave for workers suffering from either short-term or long-term illnesses. This shocking finding means that forty million Americans – 40% of private-sector workers and more than 80% of low-wage workers — do not get paid sick days to care for their own health or that of a loved one. Not only does this injustice force caregivers to choose between their work lives and their family's well-being – it also poses a threat to public health. The same study revealed that adults without paid sick days are more likely than their counterparts with paid sick days to report going to work with a contagious illness (like the flu or a viral infection), risking infecting others.

Paid sick days would benefit the 66 million American adults who are unpaid caregivers for family members or friends, allowing them to manage both their caregiving responsibilities and the jobs they need to support their families. Furthermore, it would also save employers money. The cost of replacing workers - including advertising positions, interviewing, and training replacements - are in many cases greater than the cost of granting paid sick time in order to keep existing workers.

In 2009, Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced The Healthy Families Act - a measure that would require employers with 15 or more workers to grant their employees up to seven paid sick days a year to care for a child, a parent, a spouse or someone else close who became ill. A coalition of approximately 150 women's, civil rights, health, faith-based, and labor organizations (including the AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Economic Policy Institute, Families USA and many others) has since formed to support the bill's passage. However, corporate lobbyists have taken great strides to block the legislation, causing the Healthy Families Initiative to languish in committee for the past three years.

We need your help to pressure our elected Representatives to salvage this crucial bill! In order to strengthen jobs and the economy, protect public health and give working families a helping hand - support the passage of paid sick days for all!

And here are some facts about US health care provision and the affects of lack of it:

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 49.9 million residents, 16.3% of the population, were uninsured in 2010 (up from 49.0 million residents, 16.1% of the population, in 2009).[1][2]

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States spent more on health care per capita ($7,146), and more on health care as percentage of its GDP (15.2%), than any other nation in 2008.[3] The United States had the fourth highest level of government health care spending per capita ($3,426), behind three countries with higher levels of GDP per capita: Monaco, Luxembourg, and Norway.[3]

A 2001 study in five states found that medical debt contributed to 46.2% of all personal bankruptcies and in 2007, 62.1% of filers for bankruptcies claimed high medical expenses.[4] Since then, health costs and the numbers of uninsured and underinsured have increased.[5]

Active debate about health care reform in the United States concerns questions of a right to health care, access, fairness, efficiency, cost, choice, value, and quality. Some have argued that the system does not deliver equivalent value for the money spent. The USA pays twice as much yet lags behind other wealthy nations in such measures as infant mortality and life expectancy.

Currently, the USA has a higher infant mortality rate than most of the world's industrialized nations.[nb 1][6] In the United States life expectancy is 42nd in the world, after some other industrialized nations, lagging the other nations of the G5 (Japan, France, Germany, UK, USA) and just after Chile (35th) and Cuba (37th).[7]

Life expectancy at birth in the USA, 78.49, is 50th in the world, below most developed nations and some developing nations.

That's extracted from the Wikipedia article on US health care provision which also tells us that:

In the United States, ownership of the health care system is mainly in private hands, though federal, state, county, and city governments also own certain facilities.

And of course:

As in most other countries, the manufacture and production of pharmaceuticals and medical devices is carried out by private companies.

So when Republican Mitt Romney boasts that the United States spends more of its GDP on health care than most other countries, you need not be a genius to figure out possible reasons why there's a wide gap between what is spent and what is provided, besides the difference between the care you can get if you are rich and what others receive, if they are lucky.

US Republicans, neo cons and Tea Party nutters have been trying to terrify Americans with horror stories about Britain's NHS, socialised health care and supposed "rationing". Sometimes the scare stories may be boosted by British hacks who are in the pocket of private health insurers or providers.

Having worked in, as well as used, our National Health Service, I do think it has rooms for improvement.

But what we are scared of here is that our government admires the American way, and is intent on privatising as well as attacking benefits.

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