Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama on Healthcare

Click here to view a video of President Obama addressing the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons).

Some of the points the President made were:

* We need a better bang for our healthcare dollar. The rising costs are not leading to a corresponding improvement in healthcare.

* He talked about commonsense measures, emphasising prevention by using methods such as immunisation and testing.

* We need clear, easy-to-understand insurance.

* We can save money on medical costs.

The emphasis on prevention goes completely against the way healthcare has been practiced in the West for the past 150-200 years. The emphasis has been on “curing” problems rather than preventing them. This is often the opposite of traditional methods such as acupuncture, where it is recognised that prevention should be the priority.

I’m sure your grandmother told you that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Somehow, with healthcare provision in the West, this message has been lost.

The President talked about the fact that providing the right care in the first place will save money. So he was talking in terms of dollars and cents, and using a system that makes sense financially while improving the quality of healthcare being provided.

He also talked about changing the way we reward doctors. Rewarding them for the quality of healthcare they provide for ongoing and chronic conditions, rather than for the number of times they see the same patients. This is groundbreaking stuff.

It was very moving to hear the President speak about his mother, after her cancer diagnosis, being accused by insurers of having had a pre-existing condition, which would have made her ineligible for coverage. She had to spend weeks writing back and forth to insurance companies from her hospital bed after she had been paying premiums right along. And this happens to people right across the country. This causes people and their loved ones a great deal of fear and anxiety because of the prospect of losing their health coverage.

He spoke about having a system of health insurance that actually makes sense.

For example, at the moment, the more times you have to return to the hospital for treatment, the more that hospital gets paid. The more often you see a doctor for treatment for the same condition, the more that doctor is paid. And the insurance company can decide not to pay for your treatment because you lose your job or you change jobs, or for some other reason. And you don’t find out until it’s too late.

This is truly shameful. This is a scandal nobody talks about. Doctors, healthcare providers and insurance companies are making profit at the expense of those seeking treatment.

Here in the UK, because we have socialised medicine, we do not have many of these problems. We don’t find that when the time comes, the doctor is not paid for, or the hospital care is not paid for. Everything is paid for and Britons expect to receive free heathcare from the cradle to the grave. We have to pay for prescriptions, but it’s at a flat rate which at the moment is just over £7, or about $10-11. And people who have a large number of prescriptions, e.g. more than five, can purchase a pre-payment prescription which means you can pay one flat rate for three months or one year, thus making prescriptions very affordable.

One statistic the President revealed today is that in the U.S., prescriptions cost 77% more than they cost in other countries. I am shocked by this but not surprised. I know prescription costs are high in the U.S. but I am shocked at how high they are, and that this has been allowed to go on for so long.

Of course, we have different problems here in the UK. The system is virtually bankrupt. We have what is called a “postcode lottery” which means that some treatments are not available to everybody in every part of the country. We have long waiting lists, which means some people who can afford to opt to go private do so, in order to access treatment promptly.

So it’s not a perfect system.

I agree with the President. There is a lot of waste in the current system and reducing that waste will reduce healthcare costs. This will be better for those who use healthcare, and for the country as a whole.

However, some of the providers are making so much money with the current system, and healthcare is such big business in America, that there will be many people who will be unhappy with the President’s plans to reform healthcare and health insurance in the U.S. They will simply lose too much money – they money they are now making by ripping people off.

What the President is proposing is very courageous and I salute him.

See also:

Barack Obama, African American Success Story

Celebrating Barack Obama

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