Thursday, December 13, 2007

Abandoned Wombs

This came from Pamela Druckerman in the New York Times:
I had a chance to think about the American health-care debate recently, while I was undergoing a procedure that’s mostly paid for by the French state: re-education. ... After a woman has a baby, perineal re-education shapes up her stretched-out birth canal. It also strengthens her pelvic floor for the next child, and helps keep her from leaking a little bit every time she sneezes. My doctor prescribed 10 sessions of it after my daughter was born. (American doctors typically suggest just doing some Kegel exercises, if anything.) ...

In France, making mothers good as new is a matter of national interest. The state health system pays 60 percent to 100 percent of the cost of re-education for all women after they give birth, and private insurance plans typically cover the rest. ...

I don’t doubt the rewards of re-education, but what about the costs of a system that would provide such a seeming luxury? Well, France spent $3,464 per person on health care in 2004, compared with $6,096 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization. Yet Frenchmen live on average two years longer than American men do, and Frenchwomen live four years longer. The infant mortality rate in France is 43 percent lower than in the United States.

The French bureaucracy isn’t so bad either. Typically you pay the doctor in full, then you or he sends a one-page form to the state health system. The state wires its reimbursement right into your bank account. If there’s anything left on the bill, it sends that to your private insurer, which wires its own payment into your account.
Is anyone else shocked by that line about the infant mortality rate? Because we don't bother to take good care of new mothers here, they and their next children die sooner. Almost twice as many babies die in infancy here as in France. This isn't just a problem of government health care policy, as she indicates by how little attention American doctors pay to this one simple step following births. For all the politicians and preachers and pundits pontificating about the Nobility of Motherhood, this shows where their priorities really lie. "Thanks for adding another future worker and taxpayer, now go home (today!) and don't bother us."

We need a change in more than just health care finance, we need a basic revolution in our attitude to the ones who are literally carrying our futures for us. The current neglect of them is shameful in any society claiming to be civilized.

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