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Columns

October 7, 2012

For health care, doesn't the U.S. deserve better?

As the son of a licensed nurse practitioner, it strikes a nerve every time I read stories about our health care system leaving patients out in the cold.

Such was the case when we learned that over 100 residents of Countrywide Care Center, the former Delaware County-owned nursing home sold to Leatherstocking Healthcare Llc. in 2006, faced eviction after Leatherstocking decided to abruptly close the facility instead of rectifying dozens of care “deficiencies” cited a month earlier by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

For some, such coarse cost-cutting measures are a matter of life and death, which makes it especially hard to reconcile them with a health care system that wastes a staggering $750 billion each year – more than the entire annual Pentagon budget – according to a study published in September by the renowned Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.

The oft-maligned and woefully inadequate law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 has been scornfully dubbed “Obamacare” by Republicans, but the president has recently embraced the term, pithily rebutting: “I do care.” And Obama’s harangues for Congress to reform a system that provides the nation with little bang for its buck were sincere and commendable.

But because U.S presidents are largely limited to signing or vetoing legislation – as opposed to the prime ministers of parliamentary governments – Obama had to rely on venal lawmakers from within his own party, such as Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, to get a bill passed. As the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Baucus steered the bill during its embryonic stage into the pockets of the same lobbyists who at the time had contributed just under $4 million to his campaign.

“There are no enemies and villains here,” Baucus said Aug. 4, 2009. “Most companies, industries, want to reform the system because they know we have a lousy system. We have to work together to find out … a uniquely American solution, which is public and private.”

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