Should Wealth Determine Health?

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Robert Pear of the New York Times today picks up an unsurprising, but important, new study showing that the recession has caused Americans to cut back on medical care far more than in countries with universal health care.

This is to be expected. In tough economic times, even health care costs are considered discretionary for Americans barely scraping by. Those most likely to cut back on routine medical care, according to the report, are the working poor, the unemployed, and young adults.

This is the unlevel playing field the newly enacted health reform law is meant to address. The law will expand coverage to some 30 million more Americans and those will coverage will see their out of pocket expenses for preventive care reduced to $0.

By some important measures, the American medical system provides better and more advanced care for patients than systems in the countries also included in this report: France, Britain, Canada and Germany. But this better care – or any care at all – is sometimes based on income and wealth. According to the new report, 26.5% of Americans cut back on routine medical care since the global recession began; in Great Britain, the figure was 7.6%.