Home » commentary » The U.S. has the Best Healthcare System in the World (Except for all the others)

The U.S. has the Best Healthcare System in the World (Except for all the others)

Corporate profiteers, medical bills that bankrupt families, vaccine injuries, misery & death…what’s not to like?

By Richard Edmondson

I finally got around to watching the documentary “Vaxxed.” It’s available here on Vimeo. A charge of $3.99 gets you access to it for 48 hours, and it’s well worth the money.

Do vaccines cause autism? The evidence pointing to this conclusion seems overwhelming. The documentary follows the stories of a number of people, including parents of autistic children, but the main focus of the film is CDC whistle blower William Thompson, whose private phone conversations with the parent of an autistic child led to some stunning revelations about a CDC study released in 2004. That study, published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was undertaken in response to concerns which had been raised about possible links between autism and the MMR vaccine. The study found the vaccine to be safe. Thompson himself was one of the authors.

“I have waited a long time to tell my story, and I want to tell it truthfully,” Thompson confided to Brian Hooker in 2014–ten years after the study was published. Hooker is an environmental scientist who has an autistic son and who had repeatedly been directing inquiries to the CDC regarding autism and vaccines. So persistent was Hooker and so annoying his inquiries that at one point he was even ordered to stop contacting the CDC. It was this perseverance which apparently caught Thompson’s attention and led him to approach Hooker.

“I was involved in deceiving millions of taxpayers regarding the potential negative side effects of vaccines,” Thompson told him during one of their early exchanges. “We lied about the scientific findings. The CDC can no longer be trusted to do vaccine safety work, can’t be trusted to be transparent. The CDC can’t be trusted to police itself.”

Note: Thompson himself does not appear in the documentary. This apparently is due to legal reasons. What the documentary does offer, however, is the audio of the recorded phone conversations between himself and Hooker. And as a result of these discussions Hooker was able to learn that CDC researchers had deviated from what scientists refer to as the “analysis plan” in the course of conducting the study on the MMR vaccine. Hooker’s conclusion, and the conclusion of medical professionals interviewed in the film, is that the data was deliberately skewed in a manner to make the vaccine look safe.

The CDC recommends (still even to this day) that children get two doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. One thing the agency’s researchers set out to examine in 2004 was the narrow question of whether children who followed the recommended schedule–by receiving the vaccination as early as 12 months–were more likely to suffer adverse reactions than those who waited until after three years of age.

When Hooker, after speaking with Thompson, started doing his own examination of their raw data, he reached a startling conclusion: that children in general were in fact more likely to get autism the younger they received the MMR vaccination, and that African-American boys who followed the CDC-recommended schedule suffered slightly higher autism rates than other population groups. Later on in the documentary it emerges–and this perhaps most stunning of all–that the researchers failed to even carry out what you would think would be the most fundamental and necessary undertaking in the course of determining a vaccine’s safety: i.e, a comparative analysis on the numbers of autistic children who were vaccinated, versus autistic children who had never been vaccinated at all. This, however, was never done.

Among the parents who appear in the documentary are Jonathan and Polly Tommey, a British couple with an autistic son, Billy,  who received the MMR vaccine at 12 months and who, almost immediately, regressed into uncontrollable shaking. They took him to a hospital emergency room. The doctors told them there was nothing to worry about, that it was a common side effect to MMR vaccinations, and that the adverse reaction would be only temporary. Five to six days after this, Billy’s parents noticed a “vacancy,” a “blank expression” on his face, this followed by a series of repetitive motions such as head-banging. All normal social interaction between the boy and his parents ended at this point. The Tommeys told their story on a TV show which aired in London, following which the TV station was inundated with calls and emails from thousands of viewers, all telling essentially the same story.

Jeanna Reed, another parent of an autistic child, also appears. Reed’s son, Ian, developed problems after receiving multiple vaccines at the age of 12 months.

“Within 7 days he had a 104 fever and a rash all over his body,” she says. “He had previously been noted in our home videos that he was walking and actually running at that point. Seven days after the vaccine he was no longer able to do that. He was falling down. He became a really sick, sick little boy.” The documentary includes video footage of Ian taken before and after the vaccination at 12 months. The difference is striking.

Disturbingly, Julie Gerberding, the head of the CDC at the time the study was published, later went on to take a high-paying job with Merck, the pharmaceutical giant that manufactures the MMR vaccine. It’s a rather staggering revelation, although certainly not surprising. We see examples of this all the time–the so-called “revolving door” through which government regulators move into jobs with private industry and vice versa–and it is probably a major reason why our government is as dysfunctional as it is–so dysfunctional it can’t even adopt an affordable health care system (more about which in a moment).

So how much do pharmaceutical companies make off vaccines? According to the documentary it can be up to $30 billion per year off of a single vaccine. Perhaps no surprise, then, that Gerberding reportedly sold 38,368 shares of her stock in Merck for a total of $2.3 million. This was in the year 2015–11 years after the release of the flawed CDC study.

If you’re interested in humor, Vaxxed offers a bit of this as well: a couple of segments featuring montages of mainstream media idiots all babbling away about how safe vaccines are. As I say, if you’ve got $3.99 to spare, along with 90 minutes of your time, it’s well worth it.

But you don’t even need the $3.99 to see videos that have been produced by the Vaxxed film crew. These are available, quite an abundance of them in fact, online and can be watched for free. I posted one such video about two weeks ago–concerning a 14-year-old girl who suffered a major health breakdown following a Gardasil vaccination, and who appears in the video along with her mother. Both of them are convinced that the girl’s health problems were caused by the Gardasil shot.

Gardasil is the focus in the following video as well–which features another mother of a young girl who followed medical advice and took the Gardasil vaccination. This time, however, the girl is not available to be in the video. She’s no longer among the living. But we do see pictures of her. Her name is Brittany. That’s her in the diptych I’ve posted at the top of this post. Candace, her mother, works as a nurse in Long Beach, California. An ill-starred angle to the story is that it was Candace herself who administered the shot to Brittany, and as you will see, she has lived to regret it–immeasurably.

In addition to MMR, the Merck drug company is also the manufacturer of Gardasil. But Candace is prohibited by law from bringing suit against the pharma giant. This is because back in 1986 Congress granted legal immunity to vaccine manufacturers. The only recourse available to Candace is to file a claim with the “Vaccine Court,” a panel operated by the US Court of Federal Claims. No jury will hear the case, and should by chance the judges, referred to as “special masters,” issue a ruling in Candace’s favor, Merck will not be on the hook for damages. Instead, compensation will awarded out of a “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program” that is funded by taxes paid on vaccines.

In other words, the public, rather than the drug companies, are hit with the bill from vaccine injuries.

The Best Healthcare System in the World?

Worth mentioning in all this is that in the 31 years since Congress granted immunity to vaccine manufacturers, our lawmakers still have not passed a universal affordable health care act. Yes, while Obamacare did make insurance coverage available to Americans who otherwise could not have afforded it, the measure left the for-profit insurance and healthcare-provider industries largely in control, and as a result the problem of Americans being driven into bankruptcy due to high medical bills has remained significant.

According to one study conducted in 2013, medical costs may be the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US, surpassing even credit card and mortgage debt. Many people filing for bankruptcy due to exorbitant hospital bills already have existing health insurance. But according to one analyst,”It’s not just the medical bills it’s really everything around the bills that insurance won’t cover.”

Meanwhile, the latest efforts to get a healthcare plan passed under the Trump administration seem to have stalled. So: how is it that Congress could pass a law shielding drug companies from lawsuits way back in 1986, but yet now, 31 years later, we still don’t have a law shielding average Americans from skyrocketing medical costs? What does this say about the priorities of those in Washington? Which is more sacrosanct to them, corporate profits or public health? This is why I say our government is dysfunctional.

It’s not as if passing a workable national healthcare plan takes rocket science. Back in 2008, PBS aired a “Frontline” program entitled “Sick Around the World”–in which a reporter visits five different countries in an effort to learn about each one’s universal healthcare coverage. The goal was to determine how effective the systems are and to what extent the people in each country were satisfied with them. Though the program is nine years old, the video is still available online and can be accessed here. And much like the “Vaxxed” film, it makes for some fascinating viewing.

The globetrotting reporter featured in the show is T.R. Reid, a former correspondent for the Washington Post. The five countries he visited are: Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland. In each one, he asked the same question: “Does anyone in your country ever go bankrupt due to medical bills?” In each case, the answer was no. The response he got from the Swiss official he spoke with was perhaps the most colorful: “Nobody. It doesn’t happen. It would be a huge scandal if it happens.”

Here is what Reid learned about the healthcare systems in each of the five countries he visited. Keep in mind, this was back in 2008, and much may have changed since then. But at least it captures for us what was observed at this one moment in time:

Britain: The NHS, or the National Health Service, is the government body that oversees healthcare in Britain. Reid reports: “For about half of what we pay per person, the NHS covers everybody and has somewhat better health statistics, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality.” There are no insurance premiums, no co-pays, and no medical bills. Citizens do pay higher taxes to cover healthcare. The government owns the hospitals, and the doctors who work at them are salaried government employees. The primary care and emergency care systems are considered good, though some waiting time is experienced for elective surgical procedures. But the hospitals compete against each other for government funding. Those providing better care with the least waiting time are rewarded with more funding. “Ninety percent of people who use the NHS think it’s good or excellent,” says the CEO of one of the government hospitals. No one is allowed to see a specialist on their initial medical visit. All patients must go first to a general practitioner, who acts as a “gatekeeper.” The GPs are paid a fixed amount based on the number of patients they have, and they are also paid bonuses for keeping their patients healthy.

Japan:  Here government spending on health care per capita is half as much as in the US. Annual health care spending is less than 8 percent of Japan’s GDP (the US by contrast spends 16 percent of GDP), yet every Japanese citizen is covered by the plan. And according to Reid, Japanese health statistics are “fabulous”–the longest healthy life expectancy in the world and the lowest infant mortality rate. “Everybody is covered, but unlike the Brits, the Japanese don’t pay for all of it through taxes,” he says. People sign up for an insurance policy. This can be obtained through your employer or through any one of a number of “community-based insurers.” The insurance companies are privately-run–however, they are not “for-profit” concerns. As one Japanese Health Ministry official puts it, “they (the insurance companies) are not allowed to make a profit, and anything left over is carried over to the next year, and if there’s a lot left over, then the premium rate would go down.” The average premium for a Japanese family is $280 a month, with the employer paying at least half. Each Japanese citizen also pays into a government-regulated “social insurance fund.” The government picks up the tab for those who are too poor. In turn, the Health Ministry controls the price of health care “right down to the smallest detail.” There is a fixed price for every single procedure and drug. Everything from open heart surgery to a routine checkup has a standard price, and the price is the same everywhere throughout the country. MRI’s for instance “are incredibly cheap in Japan”–just $98 (an MRI in the US can currently cost up to $3,500). One night in a hospital, in a private room, is $90. If you share a room with four people, it’s $10 per night. Most medical providers, including 80 percent of the hospitals, are private. Doctors theoretically have the option of charging more if they can find private patients, but that’s practically impossible since virtually everyone is on the government healthcare plan.  If you lose your job in Japan, you don’t lose your health insurance. You switch to one of the community insurers. And no insurance company is allowed to turn anyone down. Also, people have the option of choosing to see a GP or specialist. There are no “gatekeepers.” Public surveys have shown that the Japanese are highly satisfied with the system.

Germany: Everyone is offered government-sponsored health care. While the rich are allowed to opt out and pay privately, 90 percent of Germans choose to stay in the system. The plan works like this: people pay premiums to private insurers called “sickness funds.” There are patient co-pays, but these are minimal, and are dropped entirely for pregnant women. Most prescription drugs are covered. Reid comments: “A worker earning $60,000 would split a a $750 monthly premium with her employer. It’s more expensive than Japan and the UK, but still a bargain by US standards.” As in Japan, the sickness funds are privately operated, but not for-profit. Also like Japan, doctors and hospitals are largely private. Patients with serious problems can see a doctor immediately. Others may have to wait up to 2-3 weeks. “That’s about the same waiting time as the US. It’s faster than Britain, but not as fast as Japan would be.” Even though they are not allowed to make a profit, the sickness funds compete against each other for customers. This is because the managers of the funds are paid higher salaries if the funds are growing and gaining new patients. Medical providers and sickness funds negotiate standard prices. The sickness funds also negotiate with the drug companies on drug prices, and they do so collectively, which increases their bargaining power. A member of the German Parliament describes it as “a system where the rich pay for the poor and where the ill are covered by the healthy,” and also as “a nice third way between a for-profit system on the one hand, and a single-payer system on the other hand.” Surveys have shown the Germans are satisfied with the system.

Taiwan: Before adopting a healthcare plan of their own, Taiwanese officials did a comparative analysis of national plans in other countries. They wanted a system that gives everyone equal access to healthcare, free choice of doctors with no waiting time, and one that would encourage competition among medical providers. The plan they came up with involved a national insurance system that forces everybody to join in and pay. One of the countries they looked at was Germany, but unlike the Germans, they did not let the rich opt out of the system. One government insurer collects the money, and in Reid’s view it works “a bit like the US Medicare system for the elderly.” There are no gatekeepers, no waiting time. Clinics are open on weekends. The system provides drug benefits, vision care, traditional Chinese medicine, kidney dialysis and much, much more. All citizens are issued a healthcare “smart card.” When they go to the doctor, they present the card. The card is scanned and the patient’s medical history shows up on the computer screen. The bill for the visit goes directly to the government insurance office and is paid automatically. This helps give Taiwan one of the lowest administrative costs in the world. The system is under certain strains (this is the case in all five countries), but Reid notes that the Taiwanese spend just 6.2 percent of their GDP on healthcare–even less than the Japanese and far less than the 16 percent spent in the US. “So we spend too much on healthcare and don’t even cover everybody, but the Taiwanese spend too little–less even than Japan,” Reid comments. “So they just don’t bring in enough money to pay for all the services they offer.” Yet Taiwanese politicians are reluctant to raise premiums for fear of angering voters. It comes down to an effort to “balance the hopes of patients and the expectations of doctors against the price people are willing to pay for healthcare.” In any event, surveys show the Taiwanese people are highly satisfied with the system they have.

Switzerland: The Swiss offer universal coverage–everybody is required to buy insurance, and the government pays for the poor. The insurance companies are privately owned. They are not allowed to make a profit on “basic care,” although they can earn profits from “supplemental policies” that offer such things as better hospital rooms. Also the insurance companies are not allowed to “cherry pick” the young and healthy while denying coverage to the old and sick. Bottom line: no one goes bankrupt trying to pay medical bills. And as reported above, one Swiss official interviewed commented rather blithely it would be a “scandal” were this to happen. The average monthly premium for a Swiss family is about $750, and there is pressure to raise that. Reid comments, “It’s already the second most expensive healthcare system in the world, although still much cheaper than ours.”

So how is it these countries can provide affordable universal healthcare for their citizens while the US, supposedly the richest country in the world, cannot? In summing up what he has observed in the five countries, Reid comments:

These capitalist countries don’t trust healthcare entirely to the free market. They all impose limits. There are three big ones: first, insurance companies must accept everyone and can’t make a profit on basic care. Second, everybody is mandated to buy insurance, and the government pays the premium for the poor. Third, doctors and hospitals have to accept one standard set of fixed prices…

And of our own system here in America, he concludes:

This fragmented healthcare mess cannot be ignored. The longer we leave it, the sicker it becomes and the more expensive the cure.

Keep in mind this was all back in 2008. It–the system–is sicker than ever now. And the populace is getting sicker too. Cancer rates are up. In 2017, there will be an estimated 1.6 million new cancer cases. Diabetes rates have risen by 40 percent since the year 1999; heart disease is also up–and Alzheimer’s is said to be rising fastest of all.

And then of course there is autism.

In the 1930s, autism was practically an unknown disorder. Different studies recorded at different times, starting in the 1960s, have shown dramatically rising rates. By the early 1990s, for instance, the autism rate in the US was 1 in 2,500. By the year 2012 it had risen to 1 in 88. Today it stands at 1 in 68–that, at any rate, is the official figure given by the CDC, although some say that the CDC is lowballing it and that the prevalence in reality may be even higher. One scientist interviewed in the “Vaxxed” documentary estimates that by the year 2032, half of all children in the US, and 80 percent of boys, will fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. Yet the US government seems to prioritize maintaining a “healthy economy” (for the military-medical-industrial complex) over preserving the health of its citizens. Imagine the puzzled look on the face of the chance interplanetary visitor were you to spend fifteen minutes trying to explain all this.

As mentioned above, there has never been a CDC study comparing vaccinated versus unvaccinated children–but a study of this nature now actually has been done. It was carried out by researchers at Jackson State University and published in May of this year. You can go here to read a report on it. The study found that vaccinated children are 4.2 times more likely to have autism than the unvaccinated. But the researchers looked at other health issues as well and discovered that vaccinated children also recorded higher incidences of chronic illnesses, neurodevelopmental disorder, eczema, ADHD, learning disabilities, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).

The trouble with doing a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study a century or so after it should have been done is that virtually all American children are vaccinated today. When 95 percent of children get injections, there are few ‘controls’ left for studying long-term outcomes. Comparing American children at large to small pockets of unvaccinated children like those in the Amish community is revealing, but critics say they are comparing apples to oranges. There are too many other variables — diet, fresh air, computer time, for example – that might explain differences in health besides vaccination status.

So, Anthony Mawson, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health, Jackson State University, along with colleagues Azad Bhuiyan and Binu Jacob, collaborated with Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, OR, to engage and enrol homeschooling families to participate in the study. In this way, homeschoolers were compared to homeschoolers (apples to apples), but with the added advantage that homeschoolers as a population match the profiles of American families at large. The families who responded to the anonymous online survey were recruited through homeschooling associations in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oregon.

But much like the “Vaxxed” documentary itself, the study was slammed by critics, and the journal which initially published it ended up retracting it. So heated, in fact, have been the attacks against anyone daring to draw a connection between vaccines and autism that some have coined a term for it–“the vaccine religion”–and there has even been a book published by that title.

One who almost assuredly could sympathize with Mawson and his colleagues is Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who appears in the “Vaxxed” documentary and who first posited a theory of adverse health impacts stemming from the MMR vaccine back in 1998. The paper Wakefield wrote (co-authored with 12 colleagues) was published by the British medical journal “Lancet” but later withdrawn after he was viciously attacked in the media. You can read his story here. In what seems very much a case of the “vaccine religion” run amuck, Wakefield’s license to practice medicine was eventually revoked.

You can also go here to access the paper by Mawson and his colleagues.

We have vaccines from Merck. Glyphosate and GMO seeds from Monsanto. GMO foods without labeling requirements courtesy of our own Congress. We are being pumped and primed with a host of products, some without our knowledge, some which we probably don’t even know are dangerous because they never underwent rigorous testing–and all without any kind of affordable healthcare plan in place.

Healthcare as they say is a human right, but human rights are an endangered species under dysfunctional governments. Americans need to find a way to fix the rampant dysfunctionality. This will not be easy, however.

5 thoughts on “The U.S. has the Best Healthcare System in the World (Except for all the others)

  1. Very good article on medical care / vaccines etc.I reside in Canada and we have had a national health care system ,I believe since the 70s . It probably is not the best in the world but I would venture to say that it is right up there with the best .It is paid for through our taxation and available to everyone .No one is refused .It is administered provincially and some provinces do charge a small amount on a per month basis as in British Columbia for instance if you are in the work force.If not it is free.
    On the subject of vaccines, I have been following this issue for many years and collected much information on same .http://reconsider.news/2017/07/16/polio-conspiracy-doctor-praised-curing-polio-actually-created-new-strains-helped-spread-disease/
    Thank you Richard for once again raising awareness in a world that very much needs it .

  2. Sadly, the US has a long history of conducting experiments on people, including our own military personnel. Glad you liked the article, SF. I actually thought it kind of strange that Reid didn’t include Canada on his list of countries to visit, because I knew you have a good program there.

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