HealthCommentary

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Hiding In America’s “Deep Poverty Problem” is Health Care.

Posted on | February 8, 2018 | No Comments

Mike Magee

Angus Deaton, the Princeton professor and Nobel Laureate who documented the tie between America’s raging prescription opioid epidemic and the first multi-year decline in U.S. life expectancy in our history, has done it again.

This time it’s America’s poor in a New York Times Op-ed title “The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem.” In the piece he reviews the findings of the U.N.’s Professor Philip Alston’s extensive December, 2017 report on poverty and human rights in the U.S. What he discovered is that over 40 million people (12.7% of the population) live in poverty in the U.S., and the number is growing in part because of our inequitable health care system.

As he says, “Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy.” Some of the bulleted finds are so crazy as to be unbelievable like:

* U.S. infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.

*12 million Americans live with a neglected parasitic infection.

* The U.S. has the highest prevalence of obesity in the developed world.

*In access to clean water and safe sanitation, we rank 36th in the world.

* We have the highest incarceration rate in the world – that includes Cuba, Russia, and everyone else. 11 million are admitted to local jails each year. In total, 3/4 of a million are currently incarcerated with 2/3rds awaiting trial.

* Our youth poverty rate is a startling 25%, compared to 14% for OECD nations. Child poverty is greatest in three southern states – 30% in Mississippi and New Mexico, and 29% in Louisiana.

* We have the highest income inequality rate of all Western nations.

* Only 56% of our citizens voted in our last Presidential election. 64% of our voting age adults were registered to vote compared to 91% in Canada and the UK, 96% in Sweden, and 99% in Japan.

* 8 million more whites are poor in America than are African Americans living in poverty. 31% of poor children are White, 24% and Black, and 36% are Hispanic.

* In 1980, the top 1% in Europe controlled 10% of the wealth. They now control 12%. In the U.S., during the same period, the top 1% went from controlling 10% of the wealth to 20%.

* Between 2010 and 2014, as a result of medical outlays, an additional 1.5% of total income has been transferred from poor to rich.

* 7 million Americans making more than 150% of the poverty line ($31,000 for a family of three) dropped below the poverty line after paying medical costs between 2010 and 2014. Over half of them ended up below 50% of the poverty level.

How can America walk back poverty? The quickest and most effective way is by now obvious to most:  institute nationwide universal health coverage.

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