Another reminder that our health care system is woefully inadequate

Though the U.S. spends more per capita on health care than other countries, our health system consistently ranks dead last among developed countries,

SHARE Another reminder that our health care system is woefully inadequate
The out-of-network medical bills, totaling about $12,500, that Brenna Kearney and her husband Casey Trumble received after their daughter Joey was born prematurely in 2019.

The out-of-network medical bills, totaling about $12,500, that Brenna Kearney and her husband Casey Trumble received after their daughter Joey was born prematurely in 2019.

Taylor Glascock for KHN

The recent Watchdog article about Brenna Kearney’s three-year struggle with Lurie Hospital, Northwestern Medicine and Blue Cross over their predatory and deceptive billing practices was a valuable cautionary account.

But as American health care reporting always does, it ignores the elephant in the room: In no other developed country on earth do patients and families go through the financial ordeal that Ms. Kearney endured, and that thousands of Americans endure every year.

Every wealthy country, with one exception, and a growing number of middle-income and poor countries, have some form of universal health coverage, meaning that “all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship” (World Health Organization).

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That one exception is, of course, the United States. As a result, though we spend more per capita on health care than any other country, our health system consistently ranks dead last among developed countries. We are the only wealthy country where a serious illness or injury or a complicated pregnancy can mean financial ruin.

Why do we tolerate this? Partly because many of us don’t realize how bad our system is compared to the rest of the world. We think our system is normal and inevitable. It is neither. But as long as our media keep ignoring that fact, Americans will not be informed and angry enough to demand change.

Richard A. Stewart, West Ridge

Chicago’s infrastructure woes

While Chicago’s politicians remain preoccupied with their political fortunes, our visible city-owned infrastructure is decaying before our eyes.

Most of the light poles along DuSable Lake Shore Drive are rusting away because instead of paying more for non-rusting poles in the first place, they installed ordinary steel poles, now begging to be sandblasted, primed and re-painted before they rust through. A drive through Hubbard Tunnel on the Ryan-Kennedy route shows missing tiles and other fix-up needs.

Politicians love to pose holding shiny shovels at ground-breakings, but apparently without budgeting for maintenance of what we already invested in. Switching to streetlight bulbs that use less electricity was smart, but regular maintenance either gets done, or we must replace much of it with new at today’s higher prices.

Chicago’s new structural baubles boost city pride, but all require ongoing maintenance. Don’t our mayors any longer budget for it? 

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park 

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