The article is written by Thomas H. Murray, Ph.D.
He says “Most thoughtful Americans would have something meaningful to say about the values we should choose for the foundation of our system of health care. And by focusing on these fundamental considerations, perhaps we can deepen and broaden the discussion of values and public policy.”
First he discusses “liberty,” which I agree should be a value and a right we have regarding health care reform. He mentions that this includes” the freedom to choose a physician and the freedom for physicians to choose their practice setting and patients.” I would go further to say that physicians should have the freedom to practice medicine in the best way possible to assure quality of care. So many physicians are constrained now by insurance companies and governmental regulations that affect the way they practice medicine.
Examples of this are physicians who feel like they have to practice defensive medicine because they are worried about liability. This has lead to some group physicians practices looking at each patient as whether they might be a liability to their practice. I experienced the outcome of this practice myself. I found a young female physician who promised she would stick by me as long as it took to find out what was wrong with me.
I came to a follow-up appointment to find that she had already discharged me from her care. She told me that she did not know what I was doing there because she had made it clear to me on the last visit that I should go to Johns Hopkins and she was discharging me from care. I was very ill and I burst into tears and told her I knew that had not happened. She confided in me that she had presented my case in a weekly case discussion, hoping to get feedback from other more experienced doctors. She was told to “get rid of me,” and that I was too much of a liability to the practice.
Others such as doctors who treat people with chronic pain are wrapped in bureaucratic tape due to previous actions by the DEA and REM’s instituted by the FDA for narcotics that take away the freedom to prescribe medications for the maximum benefit of the patient. Any chronic pain patient can tell you about the infamous “pain contract” with doctors and the hoops we are forced to jump through to obtain our medicine.
Dr. Murray discusses, ” Under our current system, a young entrepreneur with a brilliant idea for a new business, a creative vision that can create jobs and wealth, can’t necessarily follow that vision: if this person has a job at a large firm that provides good health insurance and has a child or a spouse with a chronic illness, the aspiring entrepreneur’s freedom to pursue his or her dream is severely limited by the “job lock” imposed by our current patchwork of health insurance.”
I’ve had personal experience regarding this situation when I was younger. My former husband was self-employed. I had a few opportunities to get in on the ground floor of a start up coding consultant companies that began to flourish in the late 80′s, but I couldn’t even consider it because I had pre-existing health conditions that would have made it impossible for us to buy individual health insurance at a reasonable price.
Mycurrent husband and I have constantly had to worry about insurance coverage since I have become ill. Due to the contract nature of his work at times, the actual company he has worked for sometimes hasn’t provided insurance. There was a stretch of time in which we were paying over $2000 dollars a month just for prescriptions.
Despite the fact that I have a terminal illness, I still haven’t been able to qualify for disability. I’m about to talk to another attorney about the possibility but due to SSI’s policy of giving strong consideration for disability regarding evidence of disability in my medical records for the first three years after I became unemployed, I have not been able to qualify because I was first disabled due to a complex regional pain syndrome and we saw many physicians until 2003 when it was fianlly diagnosed. This is an example of governmental involvement in health care benefits.
Dr. Murray also discusses values such as justice and fairness, responsibility, medical progress, privacy, and physician integrity. Should every American be required to participate in health insurance? I have a problem when lower middle class and middle class people are going to be forced to buy health care insurance when they are already being taxed for Medicare and Medicaid. Where is the extra money for premiums supposed to come from? Many families have at least one spouse who is out of work. The poverty line is around $11,000. There is no significant special funded provided in this bill for middle class families.
Dr. Murray writes, “What are our obligations to ensure that the resources devoted to health care will be used wisely? Will a universal health care system provide for appropriate utilization of services while ensuring quality of care of all patients.?” If you look at most universal health care plans adopted by other countries, quality of care has suffered dramatically. Patients have to wait months to see specialists or to have surgery.
Two years ago, I had a large deep venous thrombosis and was in the hospital for a month. I read posts by people in the U.K. and other countries that were still having complications from their DVT after two years. Some of them were still waiting to have surgery.
Dr. Murray discusses The Emergency Medical Treatment Act which requires that emergency rooms provide treatment without regard to ability to pay. Have we done enough with our health care system to provide for human decency when as Dr. Murray states, ” According to the Institute of Medicine,20,000 people a year die for want of health insurance. Thus, one of the key challenges of health care reform is to make certain that appropriate care is available to every member of our community when needed.”
What is the definition of appropriate care? With the current health care system many people do not receive appropriate care. The problem with Universal Health Care is that “appropriate care” only means that everyone has access to care. This country already has a shortage of doctors and with the initiation of Universal Health Care many doctors will abandon ship. This will leave physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide for much of primary health care given to patients. They will be overworked and underpaid. There will also be a shortage of people who want to work in a system where there are long lines of sick patients to take care of and low wages for their efforts.
Also, specialists will be more scarce and to try to save money, the healthcare system will prevent patients from seeing specialists as much as possible.
If you don’t believe me, read stories of chronically ill patients who have tried to receive good health care through HMO’s. If you are a healthy person, HMO’s work wonderfully. You only need to see a primary care physician and there is little out of cost expense for preventative medicine. Chronically ill patients and patients who are seriously ill cost the system more money.
I use to review records for quality of care in HMO’s and I saw many cases of primary care physicians or usually a physician assistant or nurse practitioner putting off appointments for patients to get in to see a specialist. Also, abnormal test results were often overlooked and not discovered until two or three visits later. You will see with any program of universal health care that health care must be rationed so expense procedures and tests will often be delayed.
Dr Murray states, “But if everyone is to receive care when it is needed, fairness and responsibility also require that everyone participate in financing it. In its 1993 report, “Genetic Information and Health Insurance,”4 a task force of the Human Genome Project’s Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues Working Group proposed the concept of universal participation. Insurers who recoiled at the idea of universal access accepted universal participation as a legitimate goal. To them, universal access meant that healthy people could skate along without paying any premiums — until they got sick, at which point insurers would have a legal obligation to enroll them and pay their medical bills.”
Everyone can see the obvious problems that arise with that system. Dr. Murray continues, ” Only people who expect to file insurance claims would voluntarily buy policies. A policy of universal participation eliminates adverse selection. And “universal participation” is a more accurate and inclusive term than “universal mandate,” which addresses only the individual’s obligation, not the national commitment to assuring that care will be available when and where it is needed.”
Len Nichols, director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, recently invoked the Old Testament in discussing stewardship. ” When food is more than sufficient to feed all, allowing some people to starve is indecent and represents a failure to live up to universal moral duties. ” Dr. Murray writes “To Nichols, the principle concerning the availability of food in Leviticus should be applied to health care today: just as the gleaners of Leviticus should not starve, so people in need of basic, effective health care should not be allowed to suffer and die. Stewardship requires us to be mindful of the basic needs of others and of the power and responsibility we have to use the resources in our control to meet those needs.”
He says “Stewardship therefore requires that we pay scrupulous attention to quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness — or value, to use the market’s sense of the term. The evidence that we do not get good value for our money — that our health outcomes fall far short of those in many other countries, that regional variations in expenses do not track variations in quality, that our hospitals too often fail to ensure consistent adherence to practices known to enhance quality (such as hand washing) — is overwhelming. Everyone entrusted with the leadership of our health care institutions and with the allocation of our health care dollars has an obligation to be a thoughtful steward of those scarce resources.”
Will the government be able to initiate such programs to ensure quality of care? As I have stated before, there was a program the government initiated through the Health Care Financing Administration that contracted a company that I worked for to do “peer review” screening of Medicare, Medicaid patients by reviewing their medical records for proper utilization of services, proper coding of diagnoses to insure accurate billing and most importantly screening for quality of care issues.
I pre-screened these records for physicians and then the physician would review the records with potential problems. In many ways the program fell short. Within the 10 year period that records were reviewed, fewer and fewer records were selected due to budget constraints and pressure from lobbyists. I believe the fact that the program existed did improve over all utilization of services and quality of care in hospitals. Unfortunately, the government abandoned the program.
Also, very few physicians or hospitals were actual sanctioned at the state level even though some major patterns of poor quality of care were found. Also, results of these studies as well as any quality review that hospitals and physicians do within their hospitals and practices are “protected” from public viewing.
The rationale behind this practice is that physicians or hospitals would unfairly be targeted due to unavoidable mistakes and that if results were given to the public, doctors and allied health care personnel would be less likely to participate in quality review.
First of all, I think participation in quality review should be mandatory. The patient is being provided a service. Therefore they are the true customer and deserve to receive information regarding performance standards. Too many doctors and hospitals mistakenly think that the insurance company is their customer because that is who pays them.
Physicians say that practicing medicine is different from any other service such as providing tax information, car repair, etc. but the fact that they do provide a service to their customer, the patient, should allow for patients to be given information about quality of services so they know who may be able to best serve them.
I don’t think physicians should be penalized for every mistake they make but as baby boomers are getting older, I believe they would demand the same kind of service that they have come to expect in other areas.
I think that it will take a long time to enact universal health care. The government is trying to plan it so the entire universal health care program is not actually enacted until after the election of 2012. But, I think people are already being fed up by governmenal interferance and will not welcome even by preliminary actions because the country is in such a difficult mess as it is.
Dr. Murray states, “The bill likely to emerge from Congress will probably do a better job of moving us toward universal participation than of ensuring proper stewardship of our health care resources.” Perhaps, repitition of services can be eliminated. That contributes in a major way to cost of health care. “Proper stewradship of health care resources? I seriously doubt that will happen with a federally governmentally run health care system for reasons I have explained above. Also, consider all the bureaucracy that comes with governemental intervention, constitutional issues and the program being able to work with state laws regarding health care.
It will be a very interesting endevor.