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The Plague of For-Profit Health Care

Ebola, Capitalism and the Idea of Society

by ROB URIE

Thomas Duncan didn’t have health insurance when he entered Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital with Ebola. The hospital claims that he was initially turned away because important information about his condition didn’t find its way to the admitting physician. Without specific knowledge that he had Ebola a temperature of 103C didn’t require the hospital to admit him. With the two days it took the hospital to confirm Ebola on his return visit, Mr. Duncan risked hospital bills in the tens of thousands of dollars that he reportedly didn’t have. The hospital ‘risked’ providing expensive treatment to a man who likely couldn’t have paid for it.

Missing from this ‘process’ that now finds Mr. Duncan dead, two nurses who attended him with Ebola themselves, the American health care system revealed as wholly unprepared to deal with what at present seems a moderately communicable disease, is any notion of a public interest.  This can be seen internationally as well with the U.S. sending soldiers to West Africa while Cuba has sent a large contingent of emergency health care workers. The difference is fundamental: Cuba sees both public purpose and moral imperative to help those stricken with Ebola and the U.S. sees a threat to profits at ‘home’ and a military exercise to ‘contain’ the spread of Ebola abroad.

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Chart (1) above: what could have and should have been a quickly contained outbreak of Ebola through response by health care workers from rich countries was instead militarized and ignored. From the CIA using fake tuberculosis screening as a premise to gain intelligence to the history of ‘humanitarian’ interventions that slaughtered thousands to illicit pharmaceutical testing and dumping by Western drug manufacturers the nations of Africa have every reason to mistrust Western intentions there. This written, the only response that the U.S. apparently could muster was to send troops to ‘contain’ the crisis. Anyone with knowledge of Western imperial history in Africa should cringe at what the word ‘contain’ might be a euphemism for.  Source: WHO

At the more fundamental level the far ‘poorer’ Cuba sees health care and education as human rights for its citizens and for those of other countries. Despite claims of capitalist ‘efficiency,’ the U.S. has the worst health care outcomes among ‘developed’ countries at a price of twice or more per person.  Illustrated in the Texas case is the radical inefficiency of a health care system whose public purpose is subverted by the profit motive. With a fever of 103C Mr. Duncan was turned away but shitting and vomiting himself he was admitted. And lest this remain unclear, it isn’t until a clear emergency can be claimed that hospitals...

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