It is clear that the United States healthcare system is in crisis. More Americans are without health insurance. The quality of care delivered to the public is the worst of other industrialized countries even though we spend more on healthcare per capita than other nations. Leading up to the 2008 presidential election, healthcare is the most common or second most common concern among the American public. What should we do as a nation?
How to Reform the System
What is clear is that at least four areas need to be addressed. First is the quality of healthcare delivered in the country. There are some exceptional health insurance plans, doctors, and hospitals that do better in keeping people well and healthy. Rather than simply expanding a dysfunctional and fragmented healthcare system, healthcare reform must include learning and adopting practices from these high performers to ensure we get the most value out of our healthcare dollars.
Second is the United States must expand its primary care doctor workforce. It is the backbone of the vast majority of other industrialized countries healthcare systems. Over the past decade, fewer U.S. medical student graduates are pursuing a career in internal medicine or family medicine due to high medical school loans, a healthcare system that reimburses and values more for doing more procedures rather than for keeping people healthy. With baby boomers entering retirement, fewer primary care doctors will be available to keep them healthy and coordinate care. A lot of healthcare costs and errors are due to the highly fragmented system we currently have.
Third policymakers, employers, and the public must come into agreement on how to fund coverage to cover everyone. Currently over 45 million Americans have no healthcare insurance. Universal coverage for all will cost more. Although some savings might be found with better performance from the healthcare delivery system, those savings are finite. Will funding be through additional taxes or some other method?
Fourth, everyone needs to have health insurance. It doesn’t matter if it is employer sponsored, government assisted, or individually paid.
Health Insurance is Not an Option
The basic concept of insurance is that all pay into a system whether for flood insurance or social security to help the few that suffer from a catastrophic or adverse event. Will it happen to you? Take note that the American Cancer Society predicts that a man’s odds of developing cancer is 1 in 2. For a woman, the odds are little better at 1 in 3. Both numbers exclude skin cancer. Remember that cancer is the second leading cause of death. Heart disease is first. There is a good chance that you will need health insurance. The question is when?
The Future of National Healthcare
What will national healthcare reform look like? Will it be like the past Clinton healthcare reform proposal? Will is look like the Massachusetts healthcare reform act? Time will tell. What is clear is that healthcare system reform is needed. How it will look and when is anyone’s guess. Don’t wait for it to happen. Take steps now to stay well.
Find out more about how you can survive the healthcare crisis and other vital information in Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely: Making Intelligent Choices in America’s Healthcare System.