Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Neo-natal mortality

At one point during Meet the Press on Sunday, August 16, 2009, the hour-long discussion on health care reform in the United States turned to the "quality of our health care system." Every time that subject come up, the opposing sides begin talking about two very different issues.

On the one hand, someone will quote the comparative negative public health outcomes for the U. S. versus those of a number of other nations that spend far less per capita on health care. The fact is, in terms of overall public health, we are behind.

On the other, someone will point out that the U. S. enjoys the best system in the world in terms of treatment, innovation and research for those who can afford to access these benefits.

And from here the debates rage on.

But, back to Sunday's program.

At one point, Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the very poor, was blamed for our nation's terrible neo-natal mortality statistics when compared to other developed nations.

It was then that I almost turned the television off. I had done a good job, up until then, of trying to give both sides a fair hearing.

But, the Medicaid comment changed the entire subject and focus of the conversation for me. And, because no one on either side talks about poverty on any of the Sunday morning news programs (or much anywhere else today for that matter), no one raised any objection.

I wanted to reach out and pull the Congressman who made the comment through the television screen and into my den. I wished that I could give him a driving tour of the "Medicaid" neighborhoods here in inner city Dallas, Texas. I wanted to tell him that these neo-natal statistics would be far worse without Medicaid and that their origin won't be discovered in the existence of this public benefit for the poor.

No, our discouraging neo-natal outcomes aren't the result of Medicaid.

They are a cruel outcome of poverty itself.

Mark it down, anyone who says otherwise does not understand poverty today.


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