Magazine article The Christian Century

Still in Poor Health

Magazine article The Christian Century

Still in Poor Health

Article excerpt

IT SEEMED AT TIMES during last fall's presidential election that the most crucial issue facing the nation was the price of prescription drugs for senior citizens. Besides indicating the importance of the over-65 voting bloc, the candidates' focus on this issue revealed how limited political aspirations are these days, especially on health care. Comprehensive reform of health care is virtually a dead issue. Ever since Hillary Clinton's proposal for universal access to health care crashed and burned during Bill Clinton's first term, it's been a political axiom that only incremental changes are feasible.

Clearly, health care issues remain important to people, and politicians of all stripes want to address some of the glaring problems. Meanwhile, the politicians have decided to ignore the fundamental flaws in the system. All the problems that led to the quest for universal access in the early '90s remain with us. The nation continues to spend about twice as much per capita on health care as does Canada or Western Europe, but with poorer outcomes as judged by figures on infant mortality and life expectancy. And though many people in the U.S. enjoy the best medical care in the world, over 40 million people are uninsured (a figure that has grown through the '90s), whereas other nations are able to provide coverage for all citizens. As Marcia Angell of Harvard Medical School wrote recently in the American Prospect, the "only plausible explanation" for this situation is that the U. …

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