May 27, 2008

the sick elephant in the debate room

Question: Why is universal health care still in not being talked about in the health care reform debate?

The answer: the many people invested in our current system continuing who know how to lobby hard.

Recently there's been some movement to try to push towards it without getting too aggressive:

The Securities and Exchange Commission - in a somewhat surprise move - has decided to allow shareholders to vote on a proposal for universal health coverage. According to an article in the NYT this morning, the proposal "asks companies to adopt 'principles for comprehensive health care reform' like those devised by the Institute of Medicine".

The American Medical Association - a group that has in the past taken a perhaps surprisingly nonsupporting stance on the issue - has asked American medical schools to increase enrollment this year, in an effort to address the looming (and very real) possibility of not having enough physicians if everyone does gain access to health care. Dr. Joseph Martin, in a Boston Globe article this morning discusses that this is particularly true of primary care physicians. This has certainly been the case in Massachusetts as the state version of universal health care went into effect this year - with politicians and taxpayers alike upset about the state under-budgeting for the implementation of the reform.

The implementation of a universal health care plan will not be easy, it will not be cheap, and it will not be a seamless transition however slow we try to do it. But that begs the question: if we aren't willing to go through reforming health care, what band-aid "solution" are we settling for?

A great quote from Dr. Ian Furst (an oral and maxofacial surgeon in Canada, who writes on: : "It’s all well and good to make the argument that paying for the small stuff will save us money on the big stuff. But there will be a period (20 years) where we have to pay for both. Are you prepared to make a 20 year gamble that it will pay off in the end? Is there an economist somewhere that has actually run the models to prove that it’s true? Also, the major burden on health care is not from lack of drugs but lifestyle choices and old age. In an ideal world I think that acute and chronic problems should be covered but I don’t want to give up my ability to have my cancer or heart attack treated. Unless everyone is willing to pay during the transition it’s not going to happen"

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