Health Care Reform
People, Politics and the Public Option?
“Government control of health care is not a panacea, The U.S. health system is a bit of a mess, but based on what’s happened in some countries in Europe, I’d be nervous about recommending more government involvement.”
Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London based research center
It is generally agreed that our health care system is imperfect and is need of improvement. There are millions of U.S. citizens* that are inadequately insured and therefore are unable to receive access to good quality and affordable health care. However, is the incremental government involvement (“public option”) of our health care system the right answer for all Americans?
It is undeniable that it is a crisis if you or anyone of your family members is one of the inadequately insured millions that are affected.
However, is it not a crisis for the majority of people in our country that presently do have access to health care and are satisfied with it (most studies states this to be 75% of the population). This segment of the population has the real potential to have their health care access, quality and affordability adversely affected if the proposed government controlled public option health care legislation is enacted?.
As evidenced by governmental controlled health care systems particularly in Canada and Great Britain, it is not unusual to wait for weeks or months for critical tests, procedures and medication. In fact, there was a recent study this month in Great Britain showing that as many as 15,000 patients over age 75 were dying prematurely from cancer each year. Experts said that those deaths could have been avoided if patients had been diagnosed and treated earlier. Access delayed is treatment denied. In addition, medical innovation has the potential to be blunted since it has been shown in other countries that once the government has a larger role in health care, they are slow to adopt new medical technology which potentially costs lives.
Do we really want bureaucrats making health care decisions for you and your family?
The key issue
As we try to analyze the confusing spin from both liberal and conservative television, talk radio and print, I believe the fundamental question we need to analyze and answer is:
How do we effectively provide improved access to both quality and affordable health care to those who truly are in need while at the same time not adversely affecting the same to the majority of the population, who are presently satisfied with what they have?
Some of the solutions that are presently being worked on include:
Target scientific based evidence preventative care. Research has shown that 70% of most chronic diseases can be eliminated, potentially saving billions of dollars in the process allowing some of this money to go towards help for the uninsured and improving our overall health care system.
Increase the number of primary care physicians, which is an effective and efficient way to improve the quality and affordability as the health care entry point. Primary care is a dying breed and we need to resuscitate it or quality health care and attendant costs will suffer in the long run.
Improve communications and efficiencies with improved coordination through use of computer technology.
Target waste, fraud and abuse.
We can help wring out cost savings by improving efficiency and thereby provide assistance and safety nets to those who really need it. We should continue to work toward private and government solutions, but we should always keep decision making regarding our families health care patient centered rather than government centered.
Who will be in charge of your families’ health care?
While the trust level of Congress is at an all time low (9%), do we truly believe that the government should be put in a position to be trusted to set medical standards for your family and your doctor?
Are our politicians to be believed regarding anything? Just look at their track record!
As a compassionate people, we do need to help those that are truly in need of help at any level, but if we allow our elected officials to create a “one size- fits all” approach to health care reform, we will create another level of bueracracy with its usual unintended future consequences of quality inefficiencies and cost overruns now for generations to come.
As a family practice physician for over a quarter of a century having seen tens of thousands of patients during that time, it is clear to me that families are interested in receiving good accessible and affordable medical care when they need it. Quality of care should be about receiving access to care when we want it without delay.
Health care is personal and should not be driven by politics. While some organizations and special interest groups vie for a “seat at the table” claiming to represent us, however that may not necessarily be the case. We should be sure that we make our own voices heard as well and not have someone speak for us that might not be truly representing how we feel.
In the coming weeks and months, our elected officials will be attempting to try to sell us their “public option” (governmental control) version of health care reform at the low price of at least one trillion dollars according to the Congressional budget office. We need to be sure that those that are in favor of the public option create a level playing field so that the private sector is able to compete effectively. If this is not done, than by default, the public option will become the rule and this will then incrementally move us all closer toward a government controlled health care model.
If you believe that health care is personal and decisions that are made should be between you and your Doctor, we need to push back and tell them you do not want them making decisions for you and your family. Once we give the keys to Washington, we will not be able to change the lock.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said “We begin to die the day we are silent on things that matter”. For both Democrats and Republicans that do not heed this message, tell them to start packing their bags when they come up for reelection next year*. We the people still have the power to do so. If we sit silently on our hands and remain silent and begin to die, then we will have no one else to blame but ourselves if we wake up too late and wonder what happened.
*There is some controversy with the total number of uninsured. Some quote 47 million, which includes U.S. citizens, those people working that do not want health insurance and finally those that are unemployed for 6 months or less). If those numbers are backed out, then the number becomes 8 million. Current total U.S. population is approximately 306 million people.
**At this time, the Senate Finance committee is marking up different versions of the health care reform proposals due on the President’s desk by August 8th, 2009. We need to deliver this message to our elected officials and we need to do it today. Here are the members of the U.S. Senate Finance committee. Please call or fax or email with your concerns. http://finance.senate.gov/sitepages/committee.htm
Paul R. Ehrmann, D.O. is a family Physician for over 30 years located in Royal Oak, Michigan.
He is the recipient of the Physician Recognition category for the Crain’s Business Health Care Heroes Award 2008
His opinions are that of his alone.