The share of total income going to the top 1% of earners has more than doubled since 1970, making the US more unequal than all but three developed countries: Chile, Mexico and Turkey.
Money can buy time, it seems, in America. Wealthy Americans can now expect to live up to 15 years longer than their poor counterparts, reports the British medical journal the Lancet . These disparities appear to be worsened by the American health system itself, which relies on for-profit insurance companies, and is the most expensive in the world
“Healthcare is not a commodity,” wrote US Senator Bernie Sanders in an opinion article introducing the issue of the journal, which is devoted to inequality in American healthcare. “The goal of a healthcare system should be to keep people well, not to make stockholders rich. The USA has the most expensive, bureaucratic, wasteful, and ineffective healthcare system in the world.”
[Sadly, Bernie, even in those countries with socialised health systems, capitalist economics still prevail.]
Among the studies’ key findings: the richest 1% live up to 15 years longer than the poorest 1%; the same gap in life expectancy widened in recent decades, making poverty a powerful indicator for death; more than one-third of low-income Americans avoid medical care because of costs (compared to 7% in Canada and 1% in the UK); the poorest fifth of Americans pay twice as much for healthcare as a share of income (6% for the poor, versus 3.2% for the rich); and life expectancy would have grown 51.1% more from 1983 to 2005 had mass incarceration not accelerated in the mid-1980s.
The poorest Americans have suffered in particular, with life expectancies falling in some groups even while medicine has advanced. For example, researchers reported that the poorest fifth of women born between 1930 and 1960 statistically lived four years less than Americans in the top fifth of the socio-economic spectrum.