Healthcare Debate – Future Doctors Beware: this is part of your job.

At some risk of politicizing the Big Upshot, I’d like to draw the readers’ attention to two little articles:

The first is in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was written by Senator Max Baucus from Montanna, and I think the following quote sums it up:

“As patients’ greatest advocates, providers play a vital role in helping to achieve reform. The stakes are high, and now is the time to fight against the misinformation that threatens the promise of reform. Together, we can take the first steps toward lowering costs, improving quality, and expanding access to high-quality, affordable coverage. At the end of the day, Americans are counting on us to end the status quo and bring our health care system in line with the principles and character of this great nation.” [emphasis mine]

This was a plea to doctors to advocate change. Doctors, of course, are firmly in the upper-middle class and thus people who had a lot to lose in a socialized medicine scenario. On the other hand, nobody knows the problems with the system as it stands as well as physicians. So, it behooves someone who is in the healthcare (and biotechnology) fields to know something about the issue. All I can do to help you out, I’m afraid, is to tell you It’s complicated. And in some ways, that’s enough. If someone tries to explain it and makes it sound simple, they are leaving something out.

This from did a nice job of summing up the only simple truth in the whole mess:

The problem is that the critics seem to imagine that once we crack down on insurance companies or go to a single-payer government health insurance plan, future patients like Nataline will get anything their doctors recommend.

They won’t. No matter how we “reform” health insurance, there will still be close calls, where it’s not clear that a costly procedure will actually do any good. There will have to be someone, either in government or in the private sector, to decide which operations and treatments should be covered and which should not. And there will be patients who will die after being refused … as long as someone else has to pay for those decisions, someone other than doctors and patients is going to make decisions about what treatments are worth the cost.

Good luck on your search for education on this issue. The Times has been doing pretty well in my estimation. Stay away from cable news. Did you know you can get the Times (and many other newspapers) on your Kindle every morning? It’s really cool.