Health Care Introduction

Jerry Williams, Ph. D.
Professor of Sociology, Stephen F. Austin State University

Welcome to The Forum on Health Care hosted by the Organization for Faith Education and community, an interfaith organization whose goal it is to bring people of faith together to address important public issues and to promote research about the intersection of faith and well-being. This is the second in a series of community forums about important issues in our community. The first was held on October 25th, 2017 about hunger in Nacogdoches. The third and final forum will address housing in the spring of 2019.

As an organization, it is our conviction that disagreements between different faith traditions become insignificant when we focus on our shared concern about important things like the needs of the poor, of children, immigrants, and those abused by power in its various forms. This is not to deny that on the level of religious practice differences exist between us, rather for the sake of making a better world we refuse to let those differences matter.

Over the years, the Organization for Faith, Education, and Community has sponsored research conferences and other actives aimed at our shared goals. We also publish “The Journal of Faith Education and Community and recently a book titled Faith and Loss: Light in Darkness.” If these activities and the organization’s goals sound appealing to, we encourage you to join our efforts. Please consider leaving your contact information on our signup sheet.

Health Care in Nacogdoches

To get us started as a sociologist, I would like to point out a few curious facts about health care in the United States.

1) There is a significant debate about health care in the United States?

a. Is it a commodity to bought and sold on the market?
b. Is it a human right, something to which members of the wealthiest nation in the world are entitled by citizenship?

2) There is also disagreement about how health care should be funded?

a. Do we want a nationally funded health care system like the rest of the developed world?
b. Or is health care better funded through market means? c. Or perhaps some combination of both?

3) Curiously, many Americans believe We have a health care system that doesn’t really exist. We think our health care system is a private system. The facts, however, challenge this notion. (we already have a public system.

a) A 2013 analysis in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that currently 64.3% (2/3) of current health care spending in the United States is funded by tax expenditures.

b) Further, a 2016 PEW Research finding suggests that the United States spends about two times the amount per capita than other developed nations do. (This includes nations with publicly funded national health care systems)

c) Further, the World Health Organization data in (2015) show that as a portion of GDP no other nation in the world spends as much as we do.

d) What do we get for all this money?

# In U.N. Health Goal rankings, we rank 23rd of nations
# About 95% of Americans have some type of health insurance, a rate that places us at the bottom of developed nations and about tied with Slovakia (United Nations)
# Our infant mortality rate (rate per 1,000) is 6.6, 32nd in the world (OECD 2016) and some U.S. states are much, much higher.

4) Conclusions:

1) We have a publicly funded system that doesn’t work.

2) Though publicly funded, profits in the system accrue in private hands (big corporations, not providers). For example:

# pharmaceutical industry
# corporate health care systems # nursing home corporations # insurance companies

3) Often this leads not only to inefficient spending of tax dollars but to consumer abuses:

# high insurance premiums (retired Texas teachers for example) # poor coverage with loopholes
# abusive billing practices by hospitals (for example, surplus or surprise billing)

4) And finally, all this money and profit leads to political lobbying by powerful interests to gain even more public dollars.

5) The crisis of rural health care.

“Currently one in three rural hospitals is in financial risk. At the current rate of closure, 25% of all rural hospitals will close within less than a
decade.” (National Rural Hospital Association 2017)