Healthcare (June 2009)

For the sake of all Americans, the time for reform has come

Today, the diagnosis for our nation’s healthcare system is bleak. Costs are skyrocketing, the quality of care doesn’t always measure up, and too many Americans are unable to get the coverage they need. What’s more, these maladies are infecting our entire economy. Healthcare spending is outpacing economic growth at an alarming rate. Businesses are straining to provide health insurance for their employees and remain competitive in a global marketplace. And the economy as a whole lost over $200 billion in worker productivity in 2007 because of the poor health of people who can’t get care.

An imperative that can’t wait

In the coming weeks as Congress considers essential health reform legislation, one thing is crystal-clear: America simply cannot afford the status quo when it comes to healthcare. Healthcare in this country costs too much, insures too few Americans and fails to deliver the quality care we need. It is both unacceptable and unsustainable.

Avoiding partisan fireworks

On July 4, 1776, America’s earliest political leaders declared independence from royal sovereignty and established the historic foundation for our system of self-government.

Greater risk-sharing promises lower costs with more security

A key indicator of the health crisis facing our nation is the rising number of Americans who lack quality health coverage. This year nearly one in four individuals will either be underinsured or without any health plan whatsoever — and we know the devastating consequences of that.  Prevention isn’t addressed, diagnoses are missed, and care is deferred. This contributes to more severe illness, long-term disabilities, higher costs, medical bankruptcies, and — too often — lives shortened or lost.

For families, businesses — an option that promotes care and competition

The facts are clear. Our healthcare system is failing too many Americans. The current high costs of healthcare hurt individuals, families, and businesses in every community across the country. Small businesses are forced to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the cost of our disjointed and inefficient system. We cannot continue on the present course, with businesses small and large crumbling under the weight of these costs and more working people are going without care or struggling to pay increased high premiums and deductibles. It is time to overhaul healthcare so that everyone is covered, we reduce costs for families, businesses and government, and we give people the choice they deserve through real competition.

Turn the pyramids right side up

Let’s take the best-case scenario: Healthcare reform legislation includes a strong public option and a path to healthcare coverage, finally, for the 50 million Americans who have none today. 

Help fulfill the promise of America

Increasing healthcare costs are crushing the budgets of families and American businesses, making us less competitive in the ever-growing global market, positioning Medicare and Medicaid in serious danger, damaging our long-term fiscal stability, and worst of all, causing Americans to continue to go without basic healthcare coverage that in the end continues to drive up health care costs and weaken our economy.

Take the time to get reform right

Haste, as you’ve probably heard countless times, makes waste. Here in Congress, the costs and consequences of rushing to act can be grave. These risks are particularly critical to bear in mind as Congress begins action on healthcare reform. The wrong action would not only waste hundreds of billions of dollars, it would put the healthcare of every American family on the line.

To GOP, reform is about wider access, lower prices, not government control

During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama said every American should have access to a healthcare system just like his. He always failed to follow up that statement with the facts. Every federal employee — presidents, park rangers and postal employees all have access to the same plan.

First, do no harm

When I first took my oath as a physician back in 1977, I vowed to “first, do no harm.”  I’m beginning to wonder why members of Congress are not required to take the same oath. There are so many proposals floating around Congress these days that would surely do more harm than good. Cap-and-trade comes to mind. But perhaps more dangerous is the idea of a public “government” plan.

The need for a robust public option

The true test of a healthcare system is how effectively and affordably it delivers care, not how profitable it is for business. Around the country, we see millions of people with inadequate or no coverage, families who go to sleep at night knowing they are one serious illness away from bankruptcy, and rising ranks of the unemployed who face going it alone in the prohibitively expensive individual coverage market — or worse, going without insurance at all. So, while insurance companies have unabashedly experienced record profits, it is clear that our healthcare system is failing.

Reform lacks transparency, bipartisanship

As Washington debates health reform, many politicians seem to have forgotten what the whole debate is about — patients being able to get good care from their doctors at a reasonable price.

A back-door path to a government takeover

Amidst all the moving parts of a national healthcare reform package, one simple, but central question must rise above everything else to guide our efforts: Who do we empower to provide the highest quality healthcare — patients and doctors, or the federal government?

Bridging the divide over the ideological ground zero on care

The ongoing debate involving the inclusion of an option for a public health insurance plan has taken on very clear political overtones. It has become the ideological ground zero. Most Democrats strongly believe that it should be an option. Most Republicans strongly oppose it.