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My mom recently underwent minor surgery. As I helped prop my mom up from the bed while trying to keep her cloaked in the flimpsy hospital gown, I tried comforting her by reminding her of how fortunate she is to a) live in a country where the needed surgery can be administered and, perhaps more importantly, b) have insurance that covers the operation. Given my passion for medicine and public health, I mentally stepped back from the situation and thought about the our U.S. healthcare paradox: leading the world in healthcare technology and innovation i.e. telemedicine, surgical robotics, personalized medicine (yes, a future with medicine based on your DNA), yet, for some reason, we can't cover everyone. The U.S. Census states that in 2006, as many as 47 million Americans were uninsured. Imagine, 47 million Americans, who, if were to get sick tomorrow, would not be able to be seen by their own doctor. Well, there's always the emergency room...
So we've established that there are 47 million Americans running around in the Emperor's new clothes i.e. without health insurance. How does the rest of the country fair? Just because you're not naked, does not mean you're completely covered. In fact, the Kaiser Commission on Medicare and the Uninsured reported in 2002, that 38% of insured Americans felt they were receiving adequate coverage.
There's the argument that universal healthcare would decrease the quality of health services and deprive people of their ownership/choice of health care insurance and respective providers. But, how much pride can insured Americans take in their health insurance? Does their health insurance really provide you with the comfort and protection it promises, or is it just a flimsy hospital gown?
Today's New York Times addresses the issue of the underinsured in America: