[Guest post by Harold Pollack and Vivek Murthy] Forbes has published another slam against health reform. This one is written by Sally Pipes, president, CEO, and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. She is the author of a forthcoming book, The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle and Replace Obamacare, put out by the conservative publishing juggernaut, Regnery. This follows Pipes’ previous volume, The Truth About Obamacare.
Over the last two decades, the health care sector has been a remarkable engine of job growth in the United States. Even as the economy plods along, health care has been responsible for adding an average of 22,500 jobs per month in 2011 through July. Health care jobs now represent about 11 percent of American employment, as compared to 8 percent in 2001.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act continue to insist that the American health care system, as presently constructed, is the best in the world. But most of the available evidence suggests otherwise. And now there's yet one more set of data making the same point. It comes from a study supported by the Commonwealth Fund, which specializes in comparisons of health care across country. And it looks at a statistic called "Mortality Amenable to Health Care." As the name suggests, it measures preventable deaths, which is a pretty good proxy for the quality of a nation's health care system.
The big drama of this week’s Republican debate was over whether front-runner Rick Perry would stumble. But the most interesting moment turned out to involve a man nobody thinks can win the presidency: Ron Paul. CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked Paul whether he was prepared to let an uninsured 30-year-old with cancer die, just because that 30-year-old could not afford the treatments. Paul gave a long, convoluted answer about responsibility. But a handful of audience members were less ambivalent.
“There are so many ways a brain can let you down. Like an expensive car, it’s intricate, but mass-produced.” So wrote Ian McEwan in his short work, Saturday. The British novelist wasn’t pondering autism’s heartbreaking and mysterious symptoms when he wrote those words. But he might have been. Autism’s social, communication, and behavioral challenges reflect some biological package of human brain disorders.
Like many other people umbilically linked to my mobile e-mailing, tweets, calls, and texts, I’m concerned by the World Health Organization’s recent findings regarding mobile phone use and brain tumors. This latest pronouncement prods me to make some lifestyle changes—my favorite one being to waste less time being a slave to my damn cell phone. Yet, as someone who has spent years trying to mobilize economic and political resources for public health, I am very frustrated by this debate.
Over the past decade, both Democrats and Republicans have pushed major initiatives to restructure our health and entitlement systems, arguing that significant changes were necessary in order to keep them afloat. So far, their proposals have consistently lurched too far either to the left or to the right of the median voter, and they’ve paid for it dearly each time at the polls. But both parties are right about one thing: The status quo is unsustainable.
Earlier this month, Medicare finalized the rules of a new program—mandated by the Affordable Care Act—that will pay hospitals based on the quality, not just the quantity, of care they provide. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Donald Berwick has called the initiative a “historic change” to the current system, which too often incentivizes doctors to provide more care at higher costs—even when that extra care doesn’t translate into better health.
In 1959, the great biologist René Dubos wrote a book called Mirage of Health, in which he pointed out that “complete and lasting freedom from disease is but a dream remembered from imaginings of a Garden of Eden.” But, in the intervening decades, his admonition has largely been ignored by both doctors and society as a whole. For nearly a century, but especially since the end of World War II, the medical profession has been waging an unrelenting war against disease—most notably cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
In Moscow on Thursday, health ministers from around the world gathered to discuss a serious global health crisis: the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, stroke, depression, and cancer. Their goal is to replicate the successes of a similar meeting held nearly a decade ago, when the United Nations General Assembly convened a special session to combat HIV/AIDS.