By Elizabeth R. Rosenthal, M.D.
The New York Times, January 31, 2018
To the Editor:
Re: “3 Giants Form Health Alliance, Rocking Insurers” (front page, Jan. 31):
Before spending lots of time, effort and money developing a new health care “product,” Warren E. Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase should realize that using a market approach to health care has failed miserably in this country.
They should go with Mr. Buffett’s earlier assessment. He suggested that despite “limited knowledge,” he thought that single payer is probably the best system, adding: “We are such a rich country. In a sense, we can afford to do it.”
Instead of reinventing the wheel, they should consult a group of experts who understand the needs of patients and populations and who have for many years studied the public policies that can best fulfill these needs. Physicians for a National Health Program, on whose board I sit, would be glad to oblige.
Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal is a dermatologist. She resides in Larchmont, N.Y.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
It is great news that these icons of the business world – Buffett, Bezos and Dimon – recognize that there are serious problems with our health care system and that they want to do something about it. But looking for technological advances to build on and tweak our current system will leave in place most of the flawed policies that result in very high costs with only mediocre performance.
There is no doubt that they could make some improvements within a customized system designed to serve their own employees, even if also extended to employees of other larger corporations. But most individuals outside of their companies would still be exposed to our highly dysfunctional system, so the net social good would be very limited.
On the other hand, if they advocated for a well designed single payer system, it would bring to their own businesses the efficiencies which would achieve their goal of cost containment while at the same time improving the allocation of our resources within the entire health care delivery system – serving well not only their companies but all of us. Further, it is likely that it would be much less expensive for them to advocate for a single payer system than to spend large sums in trying to leverage their own internal systems with expensive technological innovations – innovations that frequently fall far short of their idealistic goals.
These gentlemen have a chance to make a difference. Before they pull all stops, they should take a very careful look at a better system that would serve all of us quite well. Elizabeth Rosenthal’s astute, concise advice should be considered and pursued.
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