The entire isssue of health care is an enormous problem. I can't speak for the American system because I've never lived in America, but I get the definite impression that those who are poor, unemployed or plain dysfunctional, and who do not have private health care cover, frequently die due to a lack of proper treatment, in the USA.
If this is true, and I see lots of reports on the internet claiming that it is true, then that seems a disgrace to me for any wealthy, developed country.
The situation in Australia seems to be that one gets the best treatment available, and promptly, even if one doesn't have any health insurance, provided the ailment is considered to be serious and/or life-threatening. Frequently the same surgeons who operate on insurance-covered patients in the Private Hospitals, will travel to a Public Hospital to perform similar operations on uninsured patients.
One might ask, if this is the case, why would anyone buy private health insurance in a country like Australia? Since I'm rather healthy and very rarely need to visit a doctor, I can't speak much from personal experience, but I get the impression that private health cover provides treatment for lots of non-essential, non-life-threatening conditions without delay, and provides better accommodation in the hospital, such as a private room of a more luxurious standard, and provides the opportunity to choose one's own surgeon or specialist etc.
Another issue is the rising health care costs in general. Just recently during a conversation with a neighbour who had returned from a visit to America, I got a few impressions of life there from an Australian perspective. My neighbour was amazed at how cheap and plentiful junk food and restaurant food was, everywhere he travelled. A standard $10 meal would often be sufficient in quantity for two people with normal appetites, and frequently such a meal would include huge quantities of sliced beef and unlimited top-ups of Coke. It's no wonder obesity is on the rise in America.
Prevention is always better than cure. It's been known for years, if one wants to have a long and healthy life one should eat wholesome food with plenty of fibre, vegetables and some fruit. Eat moderately, eat less meat, and avoid as much as possible not only all junk food, but processed food in general with its added fructose. In addition, of course, one should take regular exercise.
My general impression of the situation, not only in America but more-so in America, is that we have a massive, processed-food and advertising industry, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, whose main purpose, or raison d'etre, is to encourage people to eat as much tasty and junk food as possible, the consequences of which require frequent medical care later in life.
In this sense we could consider much of the nation's health-care systems as subidiaries of the food industry, not to mention the Weight-Loss industries which thrive on providing diets that rarely seem to work in the long term.
Okay! I've had my rant.
1&2 - I was going to ask where you get your impressions but then you told me. The internet. In that case it must be true..
Seriously though, we need to be careful what we believe. We all know the political machines of our countries are doing their best to make us believe what they will and vote accordingly.. and voting is in essence taking our power (and subsequently wealth) and giving it to them. Yet, in our systems, democracies, representative republics (America), and others.. we must vote and put our representatives in power. The problem with this is that it takes a high level of dedication, work,and time spent to keep up even to a reasonable level of knowledge, so we tend to take shortcuts. We often vote with others we respect, family, spouses, teachers, etc.. as one type of shortcut. Another type (among many others) is we fall victim to news reports and the such in our media, internet included.
Are there bad things happening due to lack of insurance in America? Yes. Are there bad things happening in one-payer countries despite a promised coverage? Yes. How do we sort it out to a point we can actually make comparisons and finally decide on needed changes? The work mentioned about is one way.. Another way is trust your gut.. common sense. You sounded above like you found it hard to believe a disadvantaged group of people would be left to die without any help. I'd agree with that sentiment. And before I believe it I want someone to show me. And then I want to find out if it's a one off occurrence, if it happens once per week, a hundred times a week, a thousand times a week. And should it have happened with the current system in place, or was something else in play. Again, lots of work to get anywhere near the truth.
3. I can't think of a private hospital in America who excludes the poor, or refuses government welfare/medicare rates for their treatment. I know we've had problems trying to push certain patient groups to certain hospitals for less than great reasons.. but through it all the person is still getting treatment. But I'd say it's the rule rather than the exception that most doctors practising non-elective care (elective care would be cosmetic surgeries, experimental treatments, etc) have a steady stream of patients from all payment groups coming through.
I've noticed in other countries with one-payer systems.. you tend to get networks of private doctors/hospitals treating patients with better standards of care. Not just nice rooms and that sort of thing, but doctors equipped and trained to perform to higher levels. They'll have newer more effective drugs, diagnostic equipment, and all that available. Basically, there becomes two standards of care. One for the rich and the larger one-payer system for the poor. I've had fellow expats tell me this goes on in Australia, the UK, Canada, to name a few.
In the states we tend to have better doctors available through better hospitals, which are mostly a function of geographic proximity. If the hospital services an area, then whoever lives in that area gets serviced. However, if you're rich and everyone knows the best doctor for his surgery is in another state.. then they have the resources to travel. Of course your HMO might not cover you if you did, so if this was the case the level of "rich" you'd need to be goes up a lot. But here it's geographical.. not because this private hospital was built to service a certain income group and no one else. They're built to service their geographical areas.. which could be mostly rich.. we do have geographical pockets of wealth.
4. This fast food stuff.. I just returned to the states after being gone 7-8 years. If you would agree that fast food is defined as tasty food, often fried in unhealthy saturated fats, at a low price, ready in minutes.. then Thailand/Laos/Cambodia/Myanmar probably have a density of fast food being served to the public in rates never seen in the western world. Seriously.
They're even close on McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Pizza Company, Subway, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, etc, etc.. and they all deliver. What a great country eh?
When arriving back to the states after 7-8 years.. I noticed while indeed there is a great number of fast food places, they appear to have started a trend towards more healthy fast foods. New franchises who seem to specialize in in healthier fare.. and even the old places like McDonalds are offering more an dmore healthy items. McDonalds recently released their nutritional information guides.. and people were shocked to see they were one of the more healthy fast food places around.
I'm saying all this.. because the fast food industry has become complicated, maybe in response to consumer habits, news reports, etc. And to say fast food is a problem here, but not nearly as much as people make it out to be. Just because one fool makes a movie about only eating Big Macs, this doesn't mean we have a problem with everyone only eating Big Macs. What we have is someone trying to make a name for himself and sell movies. And it's try that food here is cheaper than in Oz by a great deal.. but so is good health food. That's a good thing right? But I'm not sure where two people can eat as you described for $10.. or $20. One person can easily spend $10 at a fast food place, most of them.. So two for $10? Only on a limited value meal..
Along these lines.. we've recently had politicians taxing soft drinks, only allowing small sizes, and all kinds of other silly stuff.. Do we really want to the government regulating what we choose to eat for lunch? Every time we ask for our government to pass some silly nanny law we're telling them we can't handle the problem ourselves. Yet I've been handling what goes in my mouth for a long time. So they tell me that I might be able to choose right, but what about those with less education or experience (code for "dumb people"), should we look out for them by making laws restricting food types? I say no.. food is one of the most basic parts of a person life. If they can't take care of their food they've probably got more serious issues to worry about. How would your fellow Aussie's feel about restricting beer intake? Or tacking on hefty new taxes? We have much better things for our politicians to do.. and they don't get a lot done anyway..