Healthcare Reform: What Next?

Based on the mixed reactions to Michael Moore's film SiCKO, it may be safe to say that the problems within the healthcare system in the US have been thrust into the limelight and the demand for...

Based on the mixed reactions to Michael Moore’s film SiCKO, it may be safe to say that the problems within the healthcare system in the US have been thrust into the limelight and the demand for change has increased ten fold. But even before the film’s release, criticism has always surrounded healthcare and the need to implement even more advanced technology to decrease costs and human error. The time is now for government officials and healthcare professionals to band together to figure out the best way to tackle this endeavor.

In a recent article published by Reuters, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that healthcare reform needs to “start at the very beginning of the process — in medical school,” and that it’s important to have all the healthcare professionals join together as a way to “foster cooperation and a sense of common mission.” Healthcare reform is a term used to discuss major government policy changes “to any existing healthcare system in a given place.”

Unfortunately, the shortage of medical schools and available instructors is inhibiting students from being accepted into the programs. According to a report released by PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute, even though the number of nursing program applications has increased, “the number of students denied admission had grown six fold since 2002, mostly because of a shortage of instructors.” In this same report, it was reported that the number of nurses (1 million) and physicians (24,000) will decrease by 2020. We addressed this epidemic in further detail in the April cover story, “Incredible Shrinking PCP.”

On the Agenda

One of the hottest topics today, healthcare reform is being addressed more and more with the impending 2008 presidential election, especially regarding the estimated 43 million Americans who are uninsured and mentions of the US being “the only industrialized nation without an organized national health care system.” But consider the steps President George W. Bush has taken to try and solve the healthcare problems in the US. Bush, a Republican, doesn’t agree with having the government become too involved with healthcare policy because it “will lead to less quality care and rationing over time.” He also remarked that “the best way to deal with the frustrations of the high cost of health care and uninsured is to change the tax code, to make health care in the private sector more affordable and more available.” He did, however, set a goal to have most Americans’ health information put into electronic health records within the next 10 years as a method of decreasing costs and medical mishaps, while increasing quality of care.

Many of the presidential candidates have been very outspoken about their established positions to implement a plan, should they win the election. Both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama have proposed the need to implement a universal healthcare plan, whereas former Governor Mitt Romney and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani discussed their intentions for allowing Americans to have control over their personal healthcare.

Senator Clinton’s Healthcare Platform

Clinton has proposed the spending of $3 billion a year “to help doctors and hospitals implement health IT” as a way to decrease the high cost for healthcare. Additionally, she would like “to see a system of incentives for doctors to use the technology.”

Senator Obama’s Healthcare Platform

The implementation of health information technology to “improve the availability of health insurance and the quality of care Americans receive” has become one of the cornerstones of Obama’s candidacy. His plan is to spend $10 billion over the course of five years as a way to reduce the “‘waste and inefficiency by moving from a 20th-century health care industry based on pen and paper to a 21st-century industry based on the latest information technology.”

Governor Mitt Romney’s Healthcare Platform

On July 7, Romney spoke at the Young Republican Nation Convention where he discussed his stance on various topics, including healthcare. He doesn’t agree that establishing a universal healthcare plan will solve the problems within the US. “Let’s provide people with their own private, affordable and portable insurance by insisting on personal responsibility and the principles of the free market,” said Romney.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Healthcare Platform

“Every one of the Democrats wants government-mandated health insurance, but we have to go in exactly the opposite direction,” Giuliani said recently. He believes that by allowing Americans to have more control and responsibility for their health coverage will provide a “‘very big tax deduction’” should they purchase coverage through the private market.

As a physician, what are your thoughts about the healthcare plans put forth by Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, Romney, and Giuliani? Do you think any of these plans will be successful if any of the four candidates were to be elected president?

Additional Resources

MDNG/OncNG Reviews SiCKO, the New Film from Michael Moore

Alliance for Health Reform

American Health Care Reform.org

Health IT as 'a Means, Not an End,' to Health Care Reform