Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dear 44: Advancing Healthcare

“Over the past year the U.S. Chamber has outlined a broad growth, opportunity and prosperity agenda for America. In the past few weeks our economy has suffered many blows and finding solutions for tomorrow has moved from the figurative to the literal. It is even more daunting when you step back for a moment and realize that all the issues that threaten the competitiveness of the U.S. economy have not gone away. We still need to modernize our infrastructure, secure our nation with clean and affordable energy, educate our current and future workers, and provide health care security for every American. And all these things need to be paid for. Where that money will come from, in the face of economic uncertainty, is certainly a considerable challenge for the next president. But not all issues are created equal. For all its faults, American health care does many things right – we are not starting from scratch and don’t need a grand overhaul. That’s the good news. The bad news is that our health care system costs too much, covers too few, is rarely efficient, is often negligent, and focuses too much on treatment and not enough on prevention. Quite a list, but there is more good news. By taking a systematic approach and playing to our strengths we can stretch the outlay over a longer period of time. The best way to reduce costs is to prevent the need for services in the first place, and you can only do that through wellness and prevention programs. Many employers have stepped up to the plate by starting walking groups, subsidizing or providing gyms, offering smoking-cessation plans, and switching to healthier foods in cafeterias and vending machines. The Milken Institute estimates that a reorientation to preventive medicine could save about $1.1 trillion. Even if that number is off by 50 percent we are still talking real money. Our health care system does have many problems, but a single solution doesn't exist to solve them all. We need a multifaceted program of wellness and prevention, transparency, technology, and consumer responsibility to cover more people and provide superior care at a lower cost. Health care is a critical issue of obvious concern to every American. With these troubled economic times there will be increased scrutiny of every dollar spent. In the case of health care, though, we can still make progress by focusing on doing a better job of spending the money we already have.”


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