The COVID-19 vaccine has failed.
I don’t mean that the vaccine itself doesn’t work—far from it. I mean the ineffective way such an important lifesaving, pandemic-ending vaccine is being rolled out. The slovenly effort is putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk. At the vaccine’s current injection rates, or even if they got it to 1 million a day, it’ll still take a year before all Americans are fully vaccinated! With 3,000+ people dying from COVID-19 every day, every minute matters. We are running out of time.
With health care still in unqualified government officials’ hands, states have failed to deliver the vaccine to the American people. Once again, the government-run system has failed.
This “feet in cement” comedy of errors exemplifies why U.S. health care is failing: The government is running it. Health care has become increasingly entrenched in bureaucracy, and health care providers have little to no say in giving effective, efficient care to their patients.
The heroic efforts by Pfizer and Moderna to develop, test, and distribute this vaccine are spectacular. But, getting this vaccine into the arms of patients has exposed the incompetence of the government-run system. The American people are seeing this fiasco play out in the front row of a bad movie. Now they know what we’ve known for years!
Speed and efficiency, when it counts, has been sacrificed.
Doctors can’t even get paid fairly without deciphering endless walls of medical codes only intelligible to trained professionals.
Staff at insurance companies with no medical training dictate what constitutes reimbursable care. Their interference fundamentally disrupts the doctor-patient relationship, delays or prevents care delivery, and presents new obstacles to new approaches that would improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.
Since the Affordable Care Act, health care in America has become an even greater bureaucratic nightmare than before. What started as incremental interference in the relationship between doctor and patient with the passage of the Medicare Act of 1965 is now an impenetrable barrier made up of governmental and health care insurance industry red tape. The result is higher costs and greater inefficiencies.
Despite the political debates and media coverage on health care policy and reform, there remains little or no feedback from the people in the trenches—the physicians and other health care professionals who provide care to the patients. It is imperative that we, as clinicians, challenge the increasingly entrenched bureaucracy in our health care system. Doctors, nurses, and patients need to have a voice in the problems engulfing care.
Like many who set out to be doctors, I went into health care because I wanted to help and to heal. I want to provide my patients with the care they need, at the time they need it, minimizing any interference to that process.
It is imperative that we educate Americans on the root causes of our health care system’s problems and demand meaningful reform—not just reform for reform’s sake.
As a profession, we must accept some blame for many of the developing problems in health care delivery. No, I am not suggesting that we caused the problem. I am stating that we have had ample opportunities to manage the debacle and even reverse some disturbing trends, yet we rarely allow our voices to be heard.
Is health care reform impossible? It certainly isn’t. But we, as doctors, need to step up to the plate, to stand up to the growing bureaucracy in the system, and make sure our voices are heard. Change will be long, slow, and painful, but we can’t allow the system to continue to swallow us whole. We can’t allow a broken system to continue to mismanage something as important as the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fellow health care providers, the change must come from us.
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