Thursday, September 4, 2008

health care

Today, I was reading another physician blog,, in between seeing patients (my charts were calling but I ignored them for the moment). One of his recent stories was entitled, "Choices in Swedish Health Care." In it, he discusses the socialized system of medicine in Sweden, a system somewhat similar to other socialized ones. This topic has been on my mind lately, especially with the election looming in November. Perhaps I shouldn't use the word "looming," but I am very concerned that a president will be elected who has not even mentioned the word health care.

I spent one month working at a pediatric clinic/hospital in New Zealand in 2004, another country where everyone has basic health care. It is also somewhat tiered, in that there are some options for faster care through a private-payer system. One of the big problems there, as in Sweden, was waits. There is, however, a fairly strong medical tourism trade with Australia, especially for people needing radiation therapy for cancer; people who can afford to live temporarily in Australia are able to start their therapy more quickly. At the time I was there, these waits were being addressed by the government, so hopefully, things have improved.

However, as we all know in the US, many people go without health care due to lack of health insurance. And, even those with insurance risk bankruptcy with a diagnosis of cancer, or a chronic health problem. We spend the most on health care of any first-world country, yet we have the poorest outcomes. What gives? Is that our technology is so advanced that we try to save those who likely would die in other countries? Is that our fees in health care are completely out-of-line with the rest of the world that we are just simply paying/charging too much? Is it the fault of the drug companies who make enormous profits are drugs that cost too much? I suspect it's a combination of all these and other factors.

The bottom line, for me, is that if we, as a country, feel that health care is a right and not a privilege, we need to be willing to make sacrifices, to change how we as doctors are paid, and to change how we as consumers define health care.

1 comment:

kevin said...
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