Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care Reform

I have to admit that I am curious as to the definition of health care reform. Is it changing how health care is performed? The method by which the financial aspects are handled? Using new technology to improve health care standards? Providing a minimum level of subsidized care to everyone in the country? Some other definition that I have not noted here?

And I should provide a disclaimer here - I have not read any of the pending legislation because, quite honestly, I have a life where I work and have a family with whom I want to spend time (which is also why this blog gets updated only once or twice a week) and do not have the time necessary to read through the legislation.

But I think the crux of the issue for many people is that there does not appear to be a universal definition of health care reform. People call for it without specifically stating what they mean. Some people call for creating new efficiencies in the practice of health care. Others call for providing free medical care for everyone. Some call for a single payer system whereby all health care bills are paid for by the government (which will inevitably require higher taxes on a portion - if not all - of the taxpayers). Some are calling for the increased use of technology both in the provision of health care (better technology to prevent and cure illnesses) as well as in the business side (to reduce the costs of having to manually track patient records instead of having them digitized or speeding up the process between insurance, provider and patient in terms of medical billing among other ideas). Other definitions are also bandied about by various interest groups but there does not appear to yet be a coherent picture of what "reform" is actually about. At least not something that is readily accessible to the average US citizen via their news networks.

This is usually the point at which I would launch into a tirade against the news media and its fascination for all things related to "Jon & Kate", "Michael Jackson's death" or "Octo-Mom", but I believe I've covered that before. If not, I will most certainly cover it later. But I digress...

So, we have a portion of the population hollering for wholesale changes to the the medical care system. We have a portion of the population adamantly against any changes whatsoever to the best medical care system in the world. And a larger portion who would like to have the issue explained in simple terms that would allow for sensible debate to occur and sensible decisions to be made.

Does the US have the best medical care system in the world? If not the best, certainly one of the best (depending upon the metrics being used). Is it expensive and even inefficient? Probably, especially when measured in monetary terms within a cost-benefit analysis (I think I need to find some data on this). Could it be improved? Sure, along with almost every other aspect of life within the US. But two sides yelling at each other with no room for compromise is going to lead to wholesale changes that will likely prove to be more detrimental than helpful or no change at all which certainly will not prove to be very helpful in the future.

But to get started on the right road, we must first determine what the definition of the reforms needed are and then map out possible solutions from there. If we cannot accurately define the problems, then any solutions will prove useless at best, detrimental at worst.

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