Tuesday, September 30, 2008

health care and the economy - Will Health Care Follow the Dow?

Will collapse of the health care economy follow the U.S. economic meltdown? That’s a question Dr. Brian Klepper address in a current article in Healthleadersmedia.com “Will Primary Care Be Re-Empowered by the Ailing Economy?” In our article, we suggest Big Business may step in by re-empowering primary care.

There are others asking this question as well. David Nash, MD, MBA, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Health Policy at Jefferson Medical College, is worried about the health system crisis. In the September Health Policy Newsletter he cites this evidence of the crisis.

• Chronic illness is epidemic and unmanaged, accounting for nearly 80% of all health care spending and affecting 133 million Americans(45% of the population).
• Health insurance premiums have risen almost 90% since 2000.
• 47 million Americans are currently uninsured and 16 million are underinsured.
• Poor and minority populations have limited or no access to healthcare of any kind.
• The aging of the U.S. population is increasing demands on all sectors of the healthcare system.
• The Institute of Medicine estimates that almost 100,000 die annually in U.S. hospitals due to medical errors.
• The failure to incorporate the latest in evidence-based medicine leads to misdiagnosis and inappropriate care.
• Threats of national disasters (Katrina) and global epidemics (Avian flu, MRSA) are ever present and can easily overwhelm local or national health care resources).

He concludes the “need to address the healthcare crisis in the United States , is incontrovertible.” And, though we spend nearly twice as much on care as any other country, we rank at the bottom for even the most fundamental quality indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy. One of his answers to the problem is to set up a School of Health Policy and Population Health at Jefferson to study the problem.

To me Professor Nash’s words are part indictment, part overstatment, part idealism, part reality, and part ideological academic spin. He cites the worst and ignores the best in our health system. Nevertheless, the crisis he cites is real, even though there is often another side to the arguments he presents in the real world outside the ivory tower.

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