In a neighborhood behind the Y on Habersham Street near Stephenson, if you told someone you're a doctor, you might hear, "Isn't that wonderful? " whereas on Duffy Street downtown, the reply might be "So what?"
Physicians are less esteemed in poorer neighborhoods where folks have a harder time gaining access to health care. Over years of medical practice countless numbers of people have told me in stores and diners that they can't afford tests and treatment for their ailments.
Although health care in America is more expensive than in any other country and we can boast of dramatic our medical breakthroughs, we lag far behind many other countries in infant mortality and life expectancy, which reflect over all effectiveness of health services for the peoples of various countries.
More than 46 million Americans without health insurance risk impoverishment as the price for getting treatment for their illnesses; and the number grows as insurance is lost along with jobs.
The cost of medical care in the United States bankrupts families and businesses and played a role in General Motors' demise because those costs made it difficult to compete globally. Although our system rewards tests and procedures, it's been shown that in areas of the country where health care is the most expensive, the quality is the poorest.
President Obama recently told the AMA, "If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of General Motors."
An ideal system should be comprehensive, affordable, emphasize disease prevention, provide choice, portability of insurance from job to job, and coverage for the unemployed. It should reward cost effectiveness and excellent outcomes and be sufficiently flexible so better means of care can be tested and promoted.
If a comprehensive health reform bill comes out of Confess this summer, it will reflect negotiation amongst two senate committees, the House of Representatives and insurance, pharmaceutical and business groups.
The bill will likely mandate health insurance for all citizens, with employers sharing the cost, with exemptions for small businesses and persons who can't afford health insurance, whose care will be subsidized by the government.
It remains to be seen whether the final bill will provide a public insurance plan, which is opposed by Republicans and the insurance industry, fearing government will use its purchasing power to drive down prices that could lead to a single-payer system. As an alternative, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota advocates non profit cooperatives owned and operated by their members.
The devil is in the details. No one knows how a final package of comprehensive reforms will be affordable.
Yet, we can't afford not to reform our broken system we have now.
Health care systems like the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente have shown effective, high quality care can be delivered inexpensively. When the final health care bill comes out of Congress, a bloated package of reforms may bankrupt us, whereas a sleek package of reforms that does the job at an affordable price will strengthen America.