At present, a heated and some time very ugly debate about the healthcare reform has exposed the bitter reality of the American capitalist system. The way special interest groups (monopoly capitalist groups) are openly blaming and attacking each other has shocked many people in the world.
The special interest groups are now sharply divided into two camps, one wants to maintain the status quo, and the other wants to change the system. The insurance and pharmaceutical companies, who are the biggest beneficiaries of the present system, have aligned with the extreme right wing groups, the conservatives and republicans to oppose any change in the present system. The special interest groups who hope to benefit from the change have aligned themselves with the liberals and democrats in support of changing the system.
The media is also bitterly divided between the conservative and liberal media. The conservative media such as Fox TV and Rush Limbaugh radio are strongly opposing any change in the system. The liberal media such as MSNBC TV are supporting the healthcare reform. The media is engaged in a very crude and bitter debate with each side, trying to malign the other side and without any sign of meeting in the middle.
Sarah Palin, who resigned her position as Governor of Alaska, has joined the crusade against the liberals and democrats. It seems she is going to take the political struggle to a new low level, never seen before in American politics. Her accusations against the Obama administration appear to be more demagogic rather than political.
The conservatives and rightists say our healthcare system is the best in the world; therefore it does not need any change. They say that in other countries people have to wait for a long time for their care and the conservatives also quote statistics to prove that the survival rates for many diseases is higher in America compared to the other countries. However they do not discuss the role of preventive medicine and only talk about the results of the treatment for the diseases.
The liberals are citing the statistics such as infant mortality and life expectancy, to make their point that in spite of spending the most, America lags behind the other countries at both ends of life. In the statistics for infant morality and life expectancy, America is at the 29th position among the 30 industrialized countries of the world. For example, out of about 200 countries of the world, America is at 50th position and Canada is at 8th as far as life expectancy is concerned.
The problems which have not gotten very big attention are the debate of alternate healthcare, the role of preventive medicine and the problem of racial discrimination. America has more lawsuits against the doctors than the rest of the world combined. Whereas millions of people are referred to the alternative healthcare in Europe, most American physicians continue to believe that alternative medicine is voodoo medicine. The role of preventive healthcare is the least emphasized area in medicine. Racial discrimination in medicine is a fact of life. Not only the patients are discriminated but the minority healthcare providers also face discrimination. The insurance and pharmaceutical companies have some hard questions to answer. During the recession, the profits of the insurance companies went up and they still raised premiums. The pharmaceutical companies should try to answer the question of why the percentage of people taking some kind of medicine is constantly going up in the United States. Why are we not promoting healthy life styles? Ultimately we have to put our heads together and redefine the concept of being healthy is not being free from disease but being in a balanced state in our body, mind, and soul.
Dr. Sawraj Singh is Chairman of Washington State Network For Human Rights, and Chairman of Central Washington Coalition For Social Justice.