Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health Care Reform

Okay, so President Obama is traveling around the country speaking to 2,000 people at a time to try to sell health care reform instead of spending his time fixing a much larger threat to our country, the deficit. Well, if he's gonna do that, then we ought to at least be armed with some knowledge about it so we can get it right.

I found this story thanks to my friend Sarah Street (hmm, all things political on my blog seem to come from her and my Dad and nowhere else...strange). It's a quick read, though it has a lot of good links that might not be so quick. But the general point here is how free markets may not apply well to the business of health care if we deem patient care more important than doctor profit. Okay, I get that. But it cites some very old papers that predicted this kind of model wouldn't work. Where's the new research on this? Shouldn't the government be doing that instead of pushing something half baked down our throats?

Another problem I have is that the predictions cite problems like a very large education gap between patients and doctors, and even more importantly a situation of fear. The patient is vulnerable, feels uneducated, and is generally also under some time pressure. So my question is how much of that has changed? These days the information age has closed that gap (or allows it to be closed) fairly significantly by an ever growing segment of the population of this country. So now the educated may not all be doctors, but we at least think we can educate ourselves pretty well on a given topic if we have to, and do it fairly quickly and free (thanks, Mr. Internet).

Is that good or bad? Are we able to do that effectively? If so, where does that leave the lesser educated lower class who may still not know how to use those tools (or have access to them)? Will they be preyed upon by the greedy doctors whereas the more educated folks can ferret out the good ones? Or should we assume that our Internet prowess may not be so good and that the doctors are the experts (I mean if you are having a heart attack you probably don't have time for research anyway, much less a choice about which hospital that ambulance is going to take you to first) and just "fix it all"?

If we need to just fix it all, then how? I suppose the most annoying thing about these kinds of articles (and worse, the old articles that predicted the mess) is that nobody seems to know the right way to fix it all. And there are so many interested parties involved that I'm not sure the government has the ability to do it anyway. My guess is that the free market with some sort of reasonable regulation is about the best we can hope for, but the insurance industry is so big I'm not sure that's an attainable goal, either. Hmmph.

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