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Despite spending more than any other nation in the world on health care, Americans are increasingly willing to leave the country for medical treatment, polls suggest.
A Pew Research Center poll shows that only 15 percent of Americans believe the nation's healthcare system is the "best in the world." Additionally, a Gallup poll found that 29 percent of American adults are willing to travel outside the United States for medical treatment.
"Our health-care system is one with competing interests - financial profit versus health and well-being," says J. Thomas Shaw, author of The RX Factor (www.therxfactor.com), a novel dramatizing what many see as a crisis in our health-care system. "Believe me, I am not advocating some sort of communist-based system, but I do think there is a sort of out-in-the-open conspiracy where true medical solutions are tossed aside in favor of lucrative prescriptions that treat only symptoms."
One of the wealthiest people in the country, Steve Jobs, reportedly traveled outside the country for treatment after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The Gallup poll reveals nearly a quarter of Americans are willing to do the same specifically for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Experts attribute these high percentages to a steady increase in health-care costs and the rough estimate that nearly 48 million Americans remain uninsured, according to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.
"Contrary to myth, the United States does not have the world's best health care," says physician Timothy Shaw, no relation to J. Thomas Shaw, in a report by HealthReformWatch.com. "We're No. 1 in health-care spending, but No. 50 in life expectancy, just before Albania. In Japan, people live four years longer than Americans. Canadians live three years longer. Forty-three countries have better infant mortality rates."
Uninsured Americans are more likely to seek treatment abroad than those with coverage - 37 percent versus 22 percent, according to the 2009 Gallup poll.
"In a significant measure, the United States private health system has changed into 'Big Business,'" says Timothy Shaw, recounting several experiences with fellow doctors. "In some measure the humanitarian emphasis has eroded."
J. Thomas Shaw says the debate over health care has become a game of politics and money, leaving the "little guy" to suffer.
But he remains optimistic that the nation can create world-class system for all, referencing Thomas Jefferson's appeal for "unalienable rights:" "And for the support of this declaration," Jefferson writes, "... We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
There are no "easy answers" to the problem of "Big Pharma," Shaw says, referring to the nation's most powerful pharmaceutical companies. "They are the entities funding most of the research, including that of universities. Research without the interests of "Big Money" would be a good start, perhaps on a grass-roots level."
Published: April 5, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 51