Debating Health Care Reform: more talk, little action

Recently, the Duke University chapter of the Benjamin Rush society held a debate on health care reform.

Moderated by Dr. Christopher J. Conover, the topic was, “How does America achieve affordable, accessible, quality healthcare?” Debate participants included Sally Pipes, Dr. Hal Scherz, Dr. Peter Kussin, and Dr. Gustavo Montana.

The audience was polled just prior to the debate as to whether health care reform would be best addressed by (1) government regulation (2) self-regulation by the private sector or (3) unsure. The same question was asked at the conclusion of the debate. Although no formal statistical analysis was performed, the numbers remained essentially unchanged before and after the debate. One hour of intense discussion among three physicians and a national health care reform expert in the presence of medical students, health care professionals, and members of the public resulted in more of the same – not unlike what we’ve seen in the last two years across both the political and private sectors. It’s clear people’s opinions on health care reform reflect core moral, political, economic, and philosophical beliefs, and those don’t often shift over the course of an hour-long discussion or a three-minute news splash.

Despite the heated discussion, there were several points that both the “conservative” and “liberal” panelists agreed upon. They agreed that the current system is broken and that PPACA is unlikely to fix it. They agreed that physicians need to be more involved in discussions of health care reform. They agreed that cost-effective care, guided by cost-effectiveness research, is important to improving health care efficiency. They agreed that patient care needs to be coordinated among providers and systems. Prospective health care provides a solution that cuts across political and personal mores. This approach provides regulation not by government or private companies, but by physicians in partnership with their patients. It provides cost-effective care, not by mandate, but by physician and patient cooperation. It supports rational reimbursement based on documented outcomes. It is a non-partisan, non-government, non-private, but physician and patient based approach that avoids the devastating road-blocks that plague current “debates” on health care reform. Dr. Kussin advocated for an American Solution several times during the debate. If the United States is to find a uniquely American solution to the question of health care reform, it will take all of America, not just one-half. Focusing on the development and implementation of models of reform such as prospective health care provides a real solution for how to provide rationale care, reduce costs, improve outcomes, and increase patient satisfaction. And who can’t agree on that?

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