Black men with prostate cancer are twice as likely to die as white men. Except those with VA health care.

Add yet another private health insurance failure to the growing pile.

On top of being incarcerated at higher rates, owning far less wealth, and suffering from countless other inequalities, African Americans are also twice as likely as whites to die from prostate cancer. But a new study has shown that, with equal access to healthcare, African American men have similar survival rates to their white counterparts.

“The hypothesis has been that the disease is just biologically more aggressive in African American men,” said the study’s senior author, a doctor at the University of California, San Diego.

Go figure. When African American men don’t experience the delays in diagnosis or treatment prevalent in private health care markets, they survive just as often as white men.

How did researchers study equal access? They looked at the country’s largest health care system, the public care provided by the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA).

“There’s something about the way the VA medical system reduces disparities seen in normal healthcare that suggests that equal outcomes could be created with smart policy decisions,” the doctor said.

I’m sure there are plenty of smart VA policies, but there’s one glaring difference between VA care and the profit-driven private health insurance industry. VA care is public. It provides the same care to all eligible veterans, regardless of income.

In fact, VA care outperforms private insurance by nearly every measure. Lower death rates after surgery? Check. Better outcomes treating heart ailments and pneumonia? Check. Shorter wait times? Check.

No wonder veterans overwhelmingly love their health care. More than 90 percent say they would recommend VA care to other veterans. And pretty much every veterans group except the one funded by the conservative Koch brothers are fighting the Trump administration’s privatization plan.

It’s simple. Access to quality health care is a public good. We can guarantee it to everyone only if we do it together.

 

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