Key Elements of Healthcare Reform

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
John Hammond, Ph.D.

Fixing our broken health-care system will not be simple. To do the job right, many problems must be addressed. Here's a handy summary you can use to evaluate proposed legislation.

Universal Coverage

Most people seem to agree that access to health care should be treated as a human right, not a luxury. Right now, more than 45 million Americans have no health insurance and tens of millions more have coverage that does not them from financial ruin if they develop major health problems.

Public Plan

At the very least, a public (government-sponsored) plan is needed to provide an option for those who cannot get or cannot afford private insurance. Many people who fear government involvement overlook the fact that most people on Medicare can get competent care at relatively low cost.

Cost Reduction

Much can and should be done to lower costs to both providers and patients. The following are needed:

Malpractice Reform

The threat of malpractice suits causes doctors to order many medically unnecessary tests to serve as extra protection if they are sued for malpractice. The high premiums doctors and hospitals pay for insurance coverage are ultimately reflected in higher patient fees. If appropriate universal coverage is mandatory, there will no longer be a reason to award injured parties millions of dollars for future medical costs because these costs will be covered by their insurance program.

Increase in Primary-Care Providers

Primary-care providers are needed to coordinate patient care and avoid duplication of services. No program will work smoothly without an adequate supply. To attract more family practitioners, general internists, pediatricians, and gynecologists, fees must be restructured so that their income is closer to that of other specialists. It is also important to address quality-of-life issues such as excessive paperwork and insurance hassles.

Stronger Licensing Boards

More resources and stronger laws are needed for state licensing boards to weed out practitioners who are impaired, incompetent, and/or unethical.

Electronic Medical Records

In the long run, electronic medical records should improve quality of care and reduce duplication of services, thereby saving money for the overall health-care system.

This article was posted on September 20, 2009..

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