By Jessica Glenza
The Guardian, September 25, 2018
The former United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has denounced the United States’ healthcare system as politically and morally wrong, and urged American leaders to enact publicly financed healthcare as a “human right”.
Ban made the comments in an exclusive interview with the Guardian in New York, as part of his work with The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela to work on issues of global importance, including universal health coverage.
The US has the world’s most expensive health system, accounting for nearly one-fifth of American gross domestic product and costing more than $10,348 per American. The United Kingdom, by comparison, spends a little under 10% of GDP according to the latest available statistics, and healthcare is free at the point of delivery.
“It’s not easy to understand why such a country like the United States, the most resourceful and richest country in the world, does not introduce universal health coverage,” said Ban. “Nobody would understand why almost 30 million people are not covered by insurance.”
Failing to provide health coverage, he said, was “unethical” and “politically wrong, morally wrong”. He accused the “powerful” interests of pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and doctors that “inhibit the American government” of having prevented the US from moving towards universal healthcare.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Ban Ki-moon was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 2007 thru 2016. He knows something about the world. He says that the failure of the United States to provide health care coverage for everyone is “unethical” and “politically wrong, morally wrong.” He’s right, of course.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the greatest resources, but we are not allocating them efficiently nor equitably. We can correct that with one simple albeit massive change: Switch our health care financing to a well designed, single payer, improved Medicare for All. With such a financing system we can much more easily make the refinements needed to improve the functioning of our health care delivery system so it works well for everyone.
When our president opens his mouth before the United Nations General Assembly and they laugh at him, that should be a sure sign that we need more national soul-searching. Listening to and acting upon the words of Ban Ki-moon should be a great place to start.
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