We constantly argue about how to fix the U.S. health care system. But what we must understand is that the most important issue isn’t how to fix health care. The issue is how to get our Congress, the President, and the health care industry to allow anything of importance to change at all. The problem is that all three have a vested interest in the current system. The health care industry reaps tons in profits. They want that to continue. So, they donate heavily into the campaigns of our elected leaders, who understandably, do what those with the most money tell them to do. It’s not much.
So, we argue about how to fix the health care system, but it is of no use. Nothing changes because those in charge don’t want it to change. For years, I participated in the back and forth arguing. I have argued with doctors and with the lay public. I began giving lectures about health care reform. But nothing changed. In fact, things kept getting worse. But I kept trying to figure it out. There must be a best way to fix health care. If someone only thought of it, it would be so. Eventually, I began to blog about my ideas. If I reached out to a wider audience, then progress would come. I even wrote a book about health care reform. Because of that, I was interviewed in print, on the radio, and on TV. I even spoke to members of Congress and their staff about my ideas. But nothing changes. It only gets worse.
And eventually, it dawned on me. Those in charge don’t want health care to change. Our swampy campaign finance system corrupts just as it is designed to do. We can argue until we are blue in the face about how to fix the US health care system. But until we change leadership—until we replace the current crew with people who care enough to end the corruption, nothing will change.
And so, our patients suffer, and we burn out. But last summer, it became too much for me to bear.
A 48-year-old woman with a history of hypertension came into the office accompanied by her husband. They are farmers. They have a teenage child. Unfortunately, they were unable to afford health insurance. She had not been to see me in years because of the cost. She complained of headaches and chest pain. Her blood pressure was incredibly high. I explained to her that she needed to get to the hospital immediately. If we did not bring her pressure down, she could have a stroke. But if we brought it down too quickly, that could also cause a stroke. The only safe place to manage her case was in a hospital intensive care unit.
But she did not want to go. She worried that the cost would be too much. I argued that to manage her case from my office was incredibly risky. We agonized over the decision together. They decided, despite the risks, to go home with medication instead of the hospital.
There is no good reason for this to be happening. There is no reason that we should be forced to gamble the value of someone’s life against the insane cost of American health care. And yet it happens all the time. It is awful for our patients, and it is an awful way to practice medicine.
It is the year 2020. We know vastly more today about preventing, diagnosing, and treating disease than ever before. And yet, patients can’t get the care they need, and they needlessly suffer, and go bankrupt, and even die as a result. And all our leaders do is fight with one another. The status quo is gridlock, greed, and corruption.
And I am sick of it. All of my patients are sick of it. We are all sick of it.
I am running for the U.S. Congress in West Virginia’s 2nd District because I can no longer sit by and watch as our leaders fight with one another, and greed and corruption are the norm, and our patients needlessly suffer and die. It is time to stop fighting and start fixing health care.
We don’t have to argue with one another about how to fix the US health care system. The issue is not single payer vs. Obamacare vs. free market. The issue is not government vs. private industry (both are terrible at present, by the way).
A working health care system in the U.S. will have the following attributes:
1. Everybody in. Everyone has access to the care they need.
2. Affordable. There must be an affordable, hard cap on annual out of pocket expenses for every patient.
3. Comprehensive. There must be a minimum comprehensive basket of health care goods and services covered for each person.
4. Choice. Patients must be allowed to choose and keep their doctors.
5. Patients decide. Health care decisions are made by a patient and their doctor, not by administrators.
6. One set of simple administrative rules. We must rid the system of the many layers of useless bureaucracy, and then come up with one simplified, standardized set of administrative rules that apply across the entire nation.
As long as the above is true, I don’t really care how it is organized. The reality is that there are probably multiple ways to get it done.
The real key is to solve the cost issue. No matter how we decide to organize health care reform, the key to success is to drastically reduce what we currently spend on health care in the U.S. The U.S. currently spends far too much on health care (18 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S. today goes towards health care). Without dramatic changes to the current system, we cannot afford to fix health care, because the many millions of people who today can’t get the care they need would come into the system, increasing spending dramatically. So, in order to afford health care reform, we must decrease current expenditures. I think there are lots of good ways to do that.
But nothing will change, and the dysfunction will continue, unless we change leadership and get money out of politics. With everything we know today, if we were working together, we could do anything. But if we continue down our current path, we risk losing everything we value. I don’t want to see that happen and so I am running the U.S. Congress. I need your support (and ideas). Thank you.
Matthew Hahn is a family physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Matthew Hahn, MD. He is the author of Distracted: How Regulations Are Destroying the Practice of Medicine and Preventing True Health-Care Reform.
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