“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Letting people die, or at least not supporting what they need to live, is business as usual in American health care. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year simply because they can not afford the care they need, either because they are uninsured or because their deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance make them functionally uninsured.
Hundreds of thousands more Americans die each year due to preventable injuries suffered while hospitalized, making patient injury the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Scrooge would have loved business as usual in American health care, especially modern American health insurance, at least before he had a change of heart.
That this is playing out here in Utah can be seen in a recently published article in The Salt Lake Tribune, which indicated that up to two-thirds of Utahns are not getting the care they need because of cost.
In fact, Utah rates an “F” on health care affordability, which means that, when it comes to health care, the Beehive state is one of the Scroogiest.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, like Scrooge, we Utahns need a change of heart.
I recently tried to persuade a wealthy friend of mine that he should donate to Common Sense Health Care for Utah, the non-profit which I chair which will place single payer health system reform on the Beehive ballot in 2026. I explained to him the Common Sense proposal, which we have named “UtahCares,” would replace profit and greed as the driving factors in health care delivery and instead focus care on what patients need, leaving no Utah resident behind.
Put simply, we propose that every patient receive better care, more simply financed, from any physician they choose in Utah, with no out of pocket payment at the time of service. My friend’s response was pure Scrooge: He argued that the business of insurance companies has priority over the lives of the people they cover.
That harsh business-over-life mindset has transformed health care during the several decades of my medical and public health career. As a medical student, I watched the first CT scans be used in Utah and, as I recall, every patient who needed a scan got one. I saw how a brand-new kind of medicine, Cimetidine, could revolutionize the treatment of peptic ulcer disease, because every patient who needed it could acquire it.
Today, new medical devices and medications are too costly for vast numbers of Americans to afford them. American health care prices, as opposed to everywhere else in the developed world, are ridiculously high.
Tens of thousands of Americans die every year because they cannot afford life saving treatment. Meanwhile, the medical industrial complex keeps a “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone,” “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching” and coveting its way to better and better profits.
As our society abandons patients, we create the conditions which lead to anger and division. If we don’t learn to care for each other, our nation will fall apart from the inside.
An initial economic analysis of UtahCares has demonstrated that we can afford to pay for medically necessary care for every Utah resident. If we can have a change of heart about health care, we can care for all of our fellow Utahns and begin to heal the hurt and anger that so divides us from each other.
Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and joyous Kwanzaa from Common Sense Health Care for Utah.
Dr. Joseph Jarvis, is a public health physician, author and chair of the board of directors of Common Sense Health Care for Utah.