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Compass: Affordable Care Act isn't perfect, but a good work in progress

Norway, Canada, Cuba and Japan all provide excellent health care to all who live in their countries. Four distinct cultures, different continents, yet each has found the means and motivation to make good health care a common thread for all.

Norway has been ranked by the Legatum Prosperity Index as the most prosperous nation in the world for the fifth year in a row, according to Viking Magazine (April 2014). One of the criteria in ranking a country for quality of life is quality, affordable health care for everyone. Switzerland, Canada, Sweden and New Zealand are right behind Norway in the annual ranking of 142 countries -- also offering good health care to all. Other items tracked for the ranking are education, economy, entrepreneurship, safety, security and personal freedom. (Search, www.prosperity.com )

There has been no "big exodus" of medical professionals from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan or Canada. Simple surveys which I completed, randomly asking 305 Canadians in Arizona over 55 years of age, between 2012 and 2014, indicates 98 percent believe Canada's health care is good to outstanding. Two percent say it is fair or poor. While not a scientific poll, it was random and documented.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed by Congress in 2010, was a step in the right direction. The ACA called the U.S. health care crisis to the forefront and addressed some failures in U.S. policies and motivations.

The ACA fell short in many ways, one being failing to offer a public option. It also failed to address the fact that health care, like education, should not be a commodity where the richest, smartest and luckiest get it and millions do not. Like education, health care should be a guaranteed human right.

The ACA also failed to penalize those who knowingly take risks with their health -- riding motorcycles, hang gliding, car racing, smoking, abuse of alcohol or drugs, obesity, etc.

The ACA failed to address the fact that medical schools and the American Medical Association don't want to expand the number of doctors -- they prefer to limit the number of doctors, because, in a "free society" then doctors can charge more, because of "scarcity." Their stated rationale is "lack of instructors" for medical schools; but after 50 years most shortages in demand are filled -- not so with U.S. medical schools.

Norway and Cuba offer free tuition to everyone. Doctors there can't excuse exorbitant fees because they have hefty tuition to repay. Cuba has so many students wanting to become doctors that their tiny country has an excess, with one doctor for every 150 residents. Cuba offers passports to doctors wanting to work in Venezuela, China, Libya, etc., in exchange for oil -- and the leaders of the oil exporters say they are the lucky ones to have good doctors coming in from Cuba.

Here, doctors, dentists, pharmacists and insurance agents think they have a right to earn a half million a year, and many earn far more than that. Just as principals and superintendents earn $100,000 to $175,000 a year, so should our medical professionals. Their responsibilities and education are about equal.

Senate candidate Dan Sullivan brags that he would have voted against the ACA. That alone would be reason to vote for anyone but him. The ACA is not perfect -- it was a compromise among competing interests and the ideal design. It was a step in the right direction to correct the U.S. health care demise.

Sens. Mark Begich, Heidi Heitkamp and Angus King offer their ideas for improving the ACA in Politico Magazine (March 27). Watch these senators live on C-SPAN. When you read or hear complaints about the ACA and who supports health care for all, ask the question: Who paid for the ad? Who owns the TV network? Don't be deceived by wealthy corporations and billionaires donating millions to ads to tell you how to vote.

Watch Congress, read the ACA, study health care in the countries ranked as having the best quality of life and the fewest poor, and decide for yourself.

Linda Sharp moved to Alaska from North Dakota 40 years ago. She worked as an HR director, administering group health care for large international corporations for several years. She has interviewed more than 300 Canadians about their health care and plans to do the same this year with Norwegians.



By LINDA SHARP