Monday, May 09, 2011

Healthcare reform looming

The following article appeared in the Harvard Gazette, May 6, 2011.  Here's an honest, comprehensive assessment of what we face in healthcare's needed reform.  The counter-intuitive truth remains:  the way out of our bankrupt system of health care will involve providing Medicare-like coverage for everyone. 

Health reform may require a crisis

ABC’s medical editor cites obstacles to improved care system

A new, more sweeping version of health care reform that provides universal coverage and controls costs is still a few years away, according to ABC-TV’s medical editor Timothy Johnson. Unfortunately, it likely will take a budget crisis to get it through Congress, Johnson said.

Despite the passage of national health care reform that extends coverage to the uninsured, ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, and allows parents to keep children on their insurance until age 26, Johnson said even more sweeping changes are in the works that would create a system similar to Canada’s single-payer program.

The reason, Johnson said, is that health care costs in the United States remain far higher than those in other countries and are climbing fast enough to threaten the nation with bankruptcy within a few years.

“In five to seven years, we’re going to be facing true financial catastrophe, with the possibility of actual bankruptcy in this country,” Johnson said. “We’ll probably throw up our hands … and what we’ll probably do at that point is expand Medicare to cover everyone.”

Johnson, who is also the medical editor for the local ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV, and who holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, analyzed America’s health quandary Wednesday evening (May 4) during the annual Lowell Lecture, sponsored by the Harvard Extension School and the Lowell Institute of Boston.

Johnson based his talk on his recent book “The Truth About Getting Sick in America: The Real Problems with Healthcare and What We Can Do.” He was introduced by Dean of Continuing Education Michael Shinagel.

There are no easy answers to America’s health care problems, Johnson said. Per capita costs for health care in America are more than double those in other industrialized nations. Though some observers may say that the quality of care is better in America, Johnson argued that it is not more than twice as good, and the problems of the uninsured and of the bureaucratic burden placed on doctors far outweigh any benefits.

Read the entire article here.


Chris said...

Obama has always been in favor of a single payer system. Oh, I know he said that if you like your health care provider you can keep it, but we all know that would not happen and he knows it also. Hopefully, he will be looking for a new job next year before he can take over 1/6th of the economy. If the election were held today he would lose in a landside.

Anonymous said...

The facts don't lie, Chris. The current system serves those who make profit on our illness. What we need is a system void of the profit on sickness, a system that rewards wellness and prevention like all other developed nations. Health care traded as a commodity is immoral.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:50 - someone needs to find a cure for the void in your head!

Anonymous said...

I'm not wild about a government run anything. But the plain facts are that the US spends more per capita on health care than any other country, but does not get the results to show for it. Other countries with far lower costs get better overall results.

Our current system constantly escalates costs with few additional benefits. This is partly because consumers (patients) with insurance have no incentive to keep costs down. They pay only a fraction of expensive, unnecessary care they get in premiums with little out of pocket.

Whatever you call it, our current insurance based system is not truly market driven. So it's disingenous to simplistically apply the labels of 'private' and 'public' and make all decisions on that basis. I'm not sure about the answer, but I'm sure we have a problem.