A Pathway to Healthcare Reform
William D. PetasnickPresident and CEO, Froedtert Hospital
In March, I attended the first White House Regional Health Reform Forum with Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, as well as many other healthcare stakeholders representing different perspectives.
In a series of emotionally charged discussions, a young mother talked about the challenge of facing cancer after job losses left her family uninsured, and a small business owner described his struggle to stay in business while managing rising healthcare costs. While ideas for reform varied widely, all agreed our healthcare system doesn’t perform as well as it should.
The American healthcare system has shown signs of strain for years. While incremental changes have succeeded, broad reform efforts have failed to garner support. In 1993, President Clinton unveiled a sweeping healthcare reform plan designed to achieve universal coverage. The plan initially had widespread public support, with polls indicating two-thirds approval. About a year later, the plan was dead. Public opinion polls still indicated support for reform, but the Clinton plan collapsed under the weight of its complexity. Numerous other proposals also failed to achieve sufficient consensus to survive the legislative process.
Almost 15 years later, the financial crisis and rising unemployment rates have renewed calls for reform as a growing number of Americans struggle to access and pay for care. President Obama has identified healthcare reform as a clear priority.
The pathway to reform is less clear. Critical questions about roles for the government and employers, personal responsibility and goals of the plan remain. Other plans are emerging from diverse stakeholders, and, while their goals may be different, common themes exist. Core elements include access to coverage, timely access to appropriate care, enhanced wellness and prevention efforts, quality and value.
There is no way to predict what will happen in Washington. We will watch the debates with great interest and will participate as changes in Washington will impact the future of health care and our hospital.
No matter what happens in Washington, our focus will remain where it belongs: on improving the health of those we serve, training the next generation of providers and advancing scientific discovery.
Source: Froedtert Today
Date: May 2009