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Nation & World

Talking healthcare

Author: Interview with Doug Koopman, professor political science and Ruth Groenhout, professor of philosophy
Calvin News and Stories
Posted on: Jul 31, 2009

Recently, Calvin professor of philosophy Ruth Groenhout and Calvin professor of political science Doug Koopman discussed healthcare in America: what’s wrong, what’s right, what could fix the system and who’s going to pay. (Note: The professors were interviewed separately for this Q&A.)

What is wrong with the current U.S. healthcare system?

Groenhout: It really is hard to know where to start. We’re spending far more dollars—both real dollars and percentage of the GNP—on healthcare than any nation in the world, and we don’t get good results. Our average life expectancy is okay, but it’s higher in other countries—Japan specifically. Our infant mortality rates are not low at all. If you go to some inner-city, rural areas, our infant mortality rate is similar to that of a third-world country, and it’s a terrible outcome. If we’re spending more than any other country in the world, why are we getting results that are mediocre at best in terms of these general health parameters?

Koopman: What’s wrong is to some extent the flip side of what is right. That should be mentioned, too. American healthcare is highly innovative. Americans receive the latest procedures, treatments, and prescription drugs quickly. Individuals receive rapid and thorough attention from specialists. Quality care is available throughout the nation. Specialty centers are distributed broadly, and not just in a few centers. The problem is that this prompt and quality attention is mostly—although not entirely—available to the insured. While the uninsured do usually get care, and often very good care, much of the cost of their care is shifted to the insured—and to taxpayers. With estimates of more than 40 million out of 300 million Americans uninsured, that can be quite a cost shift—and a real inequity.

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