The Physicians for National Health Program offer some interesting perspectives on health care reform. What was recently passed was more of an expansion than a reform. When the new “reform” proves unaffordable in a few years, they say, a national single payer plan needs to be put in place. One article suggests taking Canada’s approach: Start it one state (in Canada, Saskatchewan was first) and the others will fall into place. “The health care savings for employers in one state could force the other states to fall like dominoes and make the switch,” says Chris Gray.
This is from American doctor Sherif Emil who now works in Canada:
If you think we have passed health care reform, and can now rest easy, think again. We have not passed health care reform. We have only passed some health care expansion. It is too early to judge the effects of what just occurred, but it is not too early to be certain that much work still lies ahead.
It was interesting for me, as an American physician practicing in Canada, to see the recent negative depictions of the Canadian system in TV ads and lay media, depictions that bore absolutely no resemblance to the actual environment in which I practice daily. My reality is very different.
I can see any patient and any patient can see me – total freedom of practice. My patients’ parents have peace of mind regarding their children’s health. If they change jobs or lose their job altogether in a bad economy, their children will still get the same care and see the same physicians. Micromanagement of daily practice has become a thing of the past for me. There are no contracts, authorizations, denials, appeals, reviews, forms to complete, IPA’s, HMO’s, or PPO’s. Our Division’s billing overhead is 1 %. My relationship with the hospital administration is defined by professional, not financial, standards. I have no allegiance to any corporate or government entity, nor does one ever get in between me and the patient.
This environment, which some denigrate as the ever so scary system of “socialized medicine” allows for more patient autonomy and choice than was available to most of my patients in California. That is not at all to say that I practice in a medical utopia. There is no perfect health care system. The Canadian system has its own set of difficulties, challenges, and shortcomings, and Canadians are also looking to significantly reform their system. But as physicians, we have to enter the debate and we have to enter it objectively, salvaging it from the bias, misrepresentation, and demagoguery that has characterized it. Health care should not be a liberal or conservative issue, for disease, disability, and death do not recognize political affiliations.
As a socially conservative Christian myself, my belief that health care is a fundamental human right, and my efforts on behalf of single payer universal health coverage stem from my faith, and not despite it. My faith calls for personal morality, but also for societal morality – how do we treat the sick amongst us, the weak amongst us, the least amongst us?