In the lead-in to this year’s presidential election, the major party political conventions have now come to an end. The remnants of streamers, signs and deflated balloons are swept off the convention floors while button-festooned Americans of every stripe (reeking of alcohol & carnal pleasures and with pockets newly lined with blood-stained lobbying dollars) return to their home towns to begin to rapidly delete digital photographs from their cell phones.
If you had the stomach to follow the coverage of the speeches delivered at both conventions, you heard a lot of talk about our healthcare system, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. With the recent inevitability placed on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a narrow Supreme Court decision, we heard one side celebrating its passage and the other side swearing a blood oath to repeal the law in its entirety.
For purposes of illustration, I am now juxtaposing this ongoing battle on our shores with recent news out of China regarding their healthcare system. The government of China announced that they are dedicating $63 billion through the year 2020 into their healthcare system. The money will be directed to seven key areas in the hopes of bringing order to a chronic disease problem that has run rampant in China. It is estimated that 100 million people in the country have contracted chronic diseases since 2002, with 85 percent of deaths and 69 percent of healthcare spending attributed to this pool of patients.
While it is impossible to have an apples-to-apples comparison of healthcare systems based on the differences in the governments of the two countries, it is interesting to see a major world government at the very least acknowledge that there is a chronic health problem within their borders.
With all the arguments that have raged regarding the costs of healthcare in the United States, it is virtually impossible to get any policy maker from either party to state publicly that our country is overweight, overfed, sick and getting sicker. We are lampooned internationally for our consumption in many areas, but none may pose such a threat to our ongoing existence as the insatiable appetite for food. Type II diabetes rates have spiked, and with it the attendant miseries of the disease. The costs of treatment are going up, along with our waistlines and our need to apply Crisco to our hips in order to comfortably fit through doorways.
I have many reasons not to care for China. I snickered a little when I read the above article and saw that some of the monetary investment was going to be directed to promoting “psychological disease prevention”, as history teaches us that phrases such as this can be open-ended in a Communist country.
Yet we must read this in the context of a government like China’s never acting on any issue unless it is viewed as a benefit to the state. While dictatorships rarely let the outside world hear about their weaknesses, an announcement such as this is China’s acknowledgement that they can no longer ignore the threat that a sick population poses to their booming economy. One wonders what it would take to get the same type of public acknowledgment on this side of the world.