Quote of the Day
October 5, 2001
The response to Jeoffry Gordon’s call for a shift in strategy can be summarized best by Arthur Caplan’s statement, “Fifty years of waiting for a national health system has left tens of millions with nothing… Let’s get the damn thing done already.”
As expected, the call for moving forward with reform brought many suggestions for the specifics of reform, and many criticisms of the various proposals currently being floated. There is no consensus on the models for reform, but there is universal agreement that we must accomplish reform now.
But the precise models are not the urgent issue. Dr. Caplan is absolutely right. The urgent issue is that we must go to the negotiating tables IMMEDIATELY. We need to lay down on the table the fundamental issues of health policy – coverage, equity, affordability, access, cost containment, adverse selection, portability, continuity, etc., etc. Then we can hash out the policy applications that will address these issues.
The fights in the past have been over the concerns of special interests, such as viability of the private health plans, greed and ego needs of physicians, egalitarian issues of equality versus equity, protection of consumer advocacy litigation income, etc, etc. But these are not extraneous issues that interfere with reform; these are very real issues that must be considered as well. A few examples.
We desperately need an integrated information technology system in health care. Integration would be most effectively achieved and enforced by a public entity, but the application would be more effective through contracted vendors – opening a great opportunity for the health plans to transform themselves into something useful for our health care system. They can be relieved of the burden of risk pooling, which they are attempting to abandon anyway.
If health care as a profession is to remain attractive to some of our more gifted individuals, we will need to compensate them adequately, and we can do this by establishing collective negotiating rights for providers. And restoring the traditional physician-patient relationship will meet the ego needs of physicians. This can be done by eliminating the micromanagement of the middleman money managers, and replacing them with quality improvement programs based on assessment of applications of evidence-based medicine.
Litigation reform is in order, but accountability must be assured by allowing access to appeals and to recourse. We can restore consumer rights to patients while reducing the waste inherent in our poorly targeted litigation system.
The liberal-progressive wing in the reform movement can continue to advocate for equity or fairness in our health care system, without misdirecting efforts to establish equality, which sometimes can be inequitable (a subject appropriate for another editorial).
All special interests have real concerns that must be addressed. Instead of attempting to achieve compromises that inevitably result in mediocrity, we should be looking for the strengths that the special interests bring, and weave them into our system, while rejecting the weaknesses that would compromise reform.
Let’s all move immediately to the negotiating tables. Let’s leave our junk policy science behind. Let’s put down on the table the real issues that need to be addressed with real policy science. Let’s bring ALL of the special interests to the table. Let’s begin with only one rule: Advocates of each position are mandated to keep foremost in mind at all times what is best for the American patient. If we create a model that is best for the patient, it will be the model that is best for any special interests that have a rightful place at the table. Those that don’t belong there will rapidly reveal themselves to the rest of us.
There is far more than enough genius amongst the recipients of this message to initiate this process. Who volunteers as the convener?