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Context of 'January 14, 2004: Academy of Sciences Calls for Universal Health Care'

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The Medical Care Act comes into law in Canada. The legislation provides for universal public coverage of hospital and doctors’ services to all Canadians. This follows the first public health insurance plan enacted in 1947 by the province of Saskatchewan, and the passage in 1957 of the federal Hospital Insurance and Diagnostics Services Act, which ensured universal coverage for in-hospital services in provinces that met certain criteria. By 1961, all Canada’s 10 provinces had signed on. In 1962, the government of Saskatchewan passed an act requiring doctors to collect fees solely through the government-run plan. In 1964, the Royal Commission on Health Services led by former Saskatchewan chief justice Emmett Hall recommended that a national plan covering all medical costs for all Canadians be established. [CBC News, 8/2000; Government of Canada, 5/4/2007]

Entity Tags: Medical Care Act (Canada, 1966), Emmett Hall, Royal Commission on Health Services (Canada), Canada

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

The National Academy of Sciences issues a report calling for universal health insurance coverage by 2010. “It is time for our nation to extend coverage to everyone,” the report says. “Universal insurance coverage is an important and achievable goal for the country.” The report was drafted by a panel of 15 experts and is the product of three years of work.
Sampling of report's conclusions -
bullet People without insurance receive about half the medical care of those who have it. Consequently, they are on average sicker and tend to die sooner.
bullet Roughly 18,000 people die each year because they do not have insurance.
bullet In 2001, only half of uninsured children in the US visited a physician during 2001, compared with three-quarters of privately insured children.
bullet In 2001, taxpayers spent roughly $30 billion in unreimbursed medical care for uninsured Americans.
bullet The poorer health and premature deaths of uninsured people cost taxpayers between $65 billion to $130 billion a year.
Reaction in US government - Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee—whose family owns HCA Inc., the largest for-profit hospital chain in the US—expresses concern that “the report may not focus enough on the reasons why health care costs continue to rise and how to pay for any reform.” Democratic Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota supports the call. “It’s doable,” he says. “It’s essential. This is, I believe, the single most important domestic issue facing our country.” Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of health and human services, tells reporters the proposal is “not realistic.” [Institute of Medicine, 2004; National Academies, 1/14/2004; New York Times, 1/15/2004]

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

The Commonwealth Fund, a private organization founded to improve America’s health care system, releases a study that finds the US spends more on health care than any nation on earth, yet “consistently underperforms on most dimensions of performance, relative to other countries.” The report is based on a number of surveys conducted with patients along with information from primary care physicians. “The US spends twice what the average industrialized country spends on health care but we’re clearly not getting value for the money,” says Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis. Compared with Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and Britain, “the US health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high-performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives. The US is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance on access, equity, and health outcomes. The inclusion of physician survey data also shows the US lagging in adoption of information technology and use of nurses to improve care coordination for the chronically ill.” These findings are similar to those of studies conducted in 2004 and 2006. “The most notable way the US differs from other countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage,” the study’s authors note. “Other nations ensure the accessibility of care through universal health insurance systems and through better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their long-term ‘medical home.’ It is not surprising, therefore, that the US substantially underperforms other countries on measures of access to care and equity in health care between populations with above-average and below-average incomes.” The study’s executive summary concludes: “For all countries, responses indicate room for improvement. Yet, the other five countries spend considerably less on health care per person and as a percent of gross domestic product than does the United States. These findings indicate that, from the perspectives of both physicians and patients, the US health care system could do much better in achieving better value for the nation’s substantial investment in health.” Britain receives the highest overall ranking in the study, followed by Germany, and then by New Zealand and Australia, which tie for third. Canada is placed fourth. [Commonwealth Fund, 5/15/2007; Agence France-Presse, 5/15/2007]

Entity Tags: United Kingdom, Germany, United States, Karen Davis, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Commonwealth Fund

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

Researchers for Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance release a report that shows approximately 45,000 Americans a year—122 a day or one every 12 minutes—die as a result of a lack of health insurance and a subsequent inability to receive medical care. The study’s co-author, Harvard medicine professor Dr. David Himmelstein, tells a reporter, “We’re losing more Americans every day because of inaction… than drunk driving and homicide combined.” Lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper, a medical professor at the University of Washington, says: “The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease—but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.” The study also shows that Americans aged 64 and below have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage. The study is published in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health, and released by Physicians for a National Health Program, which favors government-backed or “single-payer” health insurance. In 1993, a similar study showed those lacking insurance had a 25 percent higher risk of death. In 2002, the Institute of Medicine estimated that around 18,000 Americans a year died because they lacked coverage. Himmelstein says the sharp rise in risk is due to the swelling ranks of the uninsured. Around 46.3 million people in the United States lacked coverage in 2008, according to the US Census Bureau, an increase over the 45.7 million figure from 2007. Another factor is the dwindling resources where the uninsured can receive care. Public hospitals across the country are either denying uninsured people any care at all, or restricting the care they offer. Co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler says the findings show that without proper care, uninsured people are more likely to die from complications associated with preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank, calls the study flawed; a spokesman for the Center says: “I think you can’t trust the results. Having said that, we ought to do something for the uninsured.” Woolhandler says the study followed similar protocols to those used by earlier government and private studies. “For any doctor… it’s completely a no-brainer that people who can’t get health care are going to die more from the kinds of things that health care is supposed to prevent,” she says. “Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives.” [Reuters, 9/17/2009; Harvard Science, 9/17/2009; CBS News, 9/17/2009]

Entity Tags: David Himmelstein, American Journal of Public Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Steffie Woolhandler, National Center for Policy Analysis, Andrew Wilper, Harvard Medical School, Institute of Medicine, Physicians for a National Health Program

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

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