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Marcia Angell
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March 5, 2010

Dr. Marcia Angell, a single-payer advocate, doesn't think there's much in the President's plan to feel good about. But it's not just the particular version that she objects to — rather that the bill doesn't address what's fundamentally wrong with the American health care system.

"We have chosen, alone among all advanced countries, to leave health care to for-profit industries, to leave health care to businesses, that then distribute health care as a market commodity according to the ability to pay. And not according to medical need. So we have left the financing of health care to private insurance companies that have learned that they can thrive not by providing health care, but by not providing health care to sick people, by avoiding sick people."

The U.S. ranks highest in total cost of care, but according to a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, it also ranks last among industrialized countries "in preventing deaths through use of timely and effective medical care." In a recent FRONTLINE report comparing the health care systems of five other capitalist democracies, "Sick Around the World," WASHINGTON POST reporter T.R. Reid notes that, "The World Health Organization says the U.S. health care system rates 37th in the world in terms of quality and fairness. All the other rich countries do better than we do, and yet they spend a heck of a lot less."

>>Watch "Sick Around the World" to see how five other countries provide health care.

Marcia Angell

In 1999, Dr. Marcia Angell became the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, the premier journal of medical science in the United States. She has also written for a general audience on the relationships between medicine, ethics, and the law.

After completing her undergraduate studies in chemistry and mathematics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Marcia Angell spent the next year as a Fulbright Scholar studying microbiology in Frankfurt, Germany. She received her M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine in 1967 and completed residencies in both internal medicine and anatomic pathology.

Currently serving as a senior lecturer in the department of social medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Angell has devoted her life to researching, writing and speaking on topics incorporating medical ethics, health policy, the nature of medical evidence, the interface of medicine and the law, and end-of-life care.

A board-certified pathologist, Angell joined the editorial staff of the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE in 1979. In addition to her academic writing, Dr. Angell has written for THE NEW YORK TIMES, NEWSWEEK, USA TODAY, THE WASHINGTON POST, and other national publications.

Dr. Angell is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American College of Physicians. In 1997 TIME named her one of the 25 most influential Americans.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.
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