An Ounce Of Prevention No Longer An Option

Last week Dr. Benjamin Brewer, who writes “The Doctor’s Office” column for the Wall Street Journal, put a face on a disturbing trend in U.S. health care. A lack of insurance and high health care costs are forcing many Americans to miss out on preventive care: people are skipping check-ups, discontinuing medication, even refusing annual screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies.

For example, a patient of Dr. Brewer’s had quit smoking in order to afford gas for his 40-mile commute to work. Unfortunately, he still developed pneumonia. The patient refused to let an ER doctor admit him, in fear of the costs, and he decided not to fill an antibiotic prescription, because his insurance had a $50 drug co-pay, which he said he simply couldn’t afford.

You probably know what happened next.  

The man’s condition deteriorated and he was forced to be admitted into the ICU of a large medical center, where he underwent tens of thousands of dollars of treatment.

Dr. Brewer recounts similar experiences with several other patients, including a 59-year-old woman who decided not to have a mammogram until she becomes eligible for Medicare at 65.

Bottom line: Just as we might have suspected, the tough economy is forcing many Americans to skip basic health care. The irony, of course, is that, despite all the conservative babble about choice and competition, a system that ensures preventative care for all Americans would save money overall and strengthen our economy.

In order to get there, though, we need to reprioritize how our tax dollars are being spent. Last year, the average American paid $235 in tax dollars for the war in Iraq. This amount paid for a fraction of a second of the war; the same amount of money could pay for 25 days of health coverage. More investment in health care costs could mean the difference between catching a condition early and nipping it in the bud or paying for expensive emergency procedures once that condition worsens.

Dr. Brewer seems to have the same idea, noting in his article that the government could have used this year’s $600 stimulus checks to provide health care for 130 million people.

To find out how much of your money went to fund the war instead of fundamental needs like health care, education and renewable energy, Progressive Future has built the Invest In US Calculator. Just enter your 2007 income before taxes, and you’ll see how much of your tax dollars went to the war, how many fractions of a second of war that money bought, and what that money could have been used for instead.

If you think the results are inconsistent with your values and priorities, sign our petition to Invest in US. Progressive Future is taking advantage of our strong roots in Denver, and working hard to get affordable health care for all Americans on the Democratic Party platform, as well as send a strong message to Congress and the media about where the priorities of the American people stand. We are gathering hundreds of signatures, which we will use to take our health care plea to the streets.…

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