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Public health funds drained
Weight of economic recession falls on services directed at the most vulnerable
sectors of the U.S. population

BY RAISA PAGES (Granma International staff writer)

THE announcement of cutbacks to federal funds for state hospitals has provoked
numerous protests in the United States, a nation where 16% of working-age adults
lack medical insurance. 

In a statement issued last year, Dr. David Satcher, director of the U.S. Public
Health Service, reported that 37% of Hispanics and 25% of the African-American
population lack medical insurance. 

Dr. Satcher’s report noted that the majority of cases concern poor workers who
do not receive insurance through their employers and do not qualify for public

The current administration claims that the cuts will save nine billion dollars,
needed by the government not only to offset security costs arising from the
September 11 terrorist attacks, but also to avoid falling into a recession (which
was already developing prior to the attacks on the Twin Towers). 

The cost of medical attention in the United States has increased at its fastest
rate during the last 12 years. According to a federal report, the average U.S.
citizen spent $4,637 USD in medical attention in 2000. The price of medicines
increased by 17.3% in that same year, after having increased by 19.2% the previous
year. According to the report, insurance companies contributed to the increase
by raising premiums by 8.4%.

Medicare and Medicaid costs (federal medical care programs for the elderly,
persons with physical disabilities and poor families) increased by 5.6% and
8.3% respectively. 

Katherine Levit, director of the National Health Statistics Group, commented
that costs have been increasing by some $10 billion USD per year since 1997.

According to El Nuevo Herald, patients will have to absorb the worst part of
insurance coverage decreases and medical cost increases.


A study by California’s Urban Institute, undertaken by Linda J. Blumberg and
Len M. Nichols and published in La Opini?n newspaper, reveals that Latinos are
the group with the highest lack of medical coverage, especially those who have
no access to certain public programs. 

In California, where some seven million people lack medical insurance, the effects
of public health cuts have raised a wave of commentaries and protests, La Opini
n confirmed. 

For Californians the decrease means that 73 public hospitals primarily serving
low-income people will lose $300 million USD every year over the next five years.

Peter Warren, spokesperson for the California Medical Association (CMA), stated
that the cuts are devastating for hospitals and for the public. He noted that
Bush has eliminated the protection network, on the one hand hypocritically asking
public health workers to train and prepare for dealing with bio-terrorism, while
cutting the funds necessary for doing so on the other hand. 


Dr. Bill Di Francesco from San Francisco commented that dozens of people without
insurance and with various problems arrive at the hospital every day. He affirms
that the loss of this money will not only affect the patients, but also the

In Los Angeles, where 30% of the population lacks medical coverage, the emergency
rooms are going to feel the rigor of the cutbacks and many will have to close
down. California health system supervisors say they cannot permit the loss of
the emergency system.

A group of 22 Latino Democratic legislators are backing bills aimed at reducing
the number of persons without health insurance, but two public health experts
recognized that they were a long way from solving the problem. 

Latino diabetics have had to suffer leg amputations as a result of not having
access to basic care, in a country that possesses the most modern technologies.

According to Elia Gallardo of the California Medical Association, one solution
to the problem of people without health care would be the implementation of
universal health insurance, something the Clinton administration attempted without
success, La Opini?n commented.


According to a survey by the University of California in Los Angeles and the
American Pediatric Academy, children living in low-income communities and
belonging to ethnic minority groups receive little or no medical services. 

More than 40% of the 1,640 pediatricians in these communities do not send their
patients of three years or younger to lactation programs, nor do they inform
their parents of other community programs, the study indicates. Pediatricians
allude to the insufficiency of services needed by many families with small


When Bush assumed the presidency, he stated that if the U.S. economy was allowed
to become disoriented and to decline, the vulnerable would be the ones to suffer
most. He was predicting what would happen during his own administration, with
public health funds being cut. 

The U.S. president promised that he would reform Social Security and Medicare
in order to save U.S. children from difficulties that could be averted. However,
the problems of poor children have worsened. 

On that occasion, Bush stressed that where there is suffering, there are duties,
and that needy U.S. citizens are not foreigners, they are citizens. They are
not problems, but priorities.

The U.S. president has a bad memory.

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