Saturday, March 21, 2009

Universal Health Care

This weekend I will be studying various health care issues and posting short blurbs about them. The first one should be very familiar: Universal Health Care. Here's some thoughts:

Is health care a necessity or a luxury? Right now many consider it a luxury, one that requires sacrifice to obtain. People fear that if a universal health care system is put in place it may ruin the quality health care service provided to those fortunate enough to have health care insurance. Sure Medicare provides care for those over 65, and Medicaid for those in poverty, but has this ensured health care is available to anyone who needs it? With increasing health care costs many employers are cutting those benefits leaving many uninsured. When I am a doctor will I have to turn away sick people because they are uninsured, or will I be forced to perform an operation which will replace injury with debt and bankruptcy? Another drawback of the current system is that PPO’s and HMO’s limit the person’s access to health care. It’s not just a matter of will you receive health care, it’s a matter of where can I receive health care. The US system favors specialty doctors (secondary care physicians). This is represented by the portion of doctors that go into primary care (only 13% in the US, compare that to 66% in England). With more and more people not seeing a primary care physician (PCP) preventative medicine gets neglected, replaced by reactionary medicine. In England, the National Health Service (NHS) requires everyone to be screened by a PCP and then referred to a specialist. With everyone required to have their own general practitioner, people are better educated in preventative medicine for chronic diseases (improving health and saving tons of money). There are plenty of drawbacks to the English health care system as well, the most notorious being the long waits to see a doctor (months if not years). Unfortunately there is no direct study comparing the two systems, and until there is a fair conclusion cannot be made judging which provides better quality care.