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Thoughts on health care

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Dear Editor,

It's amazing how worked up some people become over imaginary threats.

Despite thorough debunking in the more reputable press, many still torment themselves over worries of "death panels" and "rationing," should health care reform become a reality in our country.

At the same time, there are genuine threats under our noses of which we maintain a dangerous unawareness. Here's one that isn't hypothetical:

The Harvard Medical School has released a new report finding that over 45,000 Americans die each year for lack of access to health care. This figure is over twice the number formerly believed to die in the U.S. because of the "rationing" we already have, i.e., insurance only for those who can afford it.

This figure surpasses the number of annual fatalities due to terrorism, homicide, drunk driving, and HIV combined, according to Holly Sklar writing for the McClatchy-Tribune News Service on Sept. 25.

You can read more about this report at the Physicians for a National Health Program web site, at www.pnhp.org. The report, "Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults," will appear in the December issue of "The American Journal of Public Health."

The report brings this matter closer to home by breaking the 45,000 figure down by state for the year 2005. In that period, 451 Wisconsinites died for lack of health care. That averages over six deaths for each of Wisconsin's 72 counties. Wherever we may live in the state, I don't think we'd have to look hard to find casualties of our broken and inhumane system of health care delivery.

If nothing is done and wild fears and paranoia prevail, we can expect those figures to rise. Time to take a deep breath, abandon fantasies fed by cynical talk show hosts and deal with the reality.

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