Poverty and Healthcare Reform
What’s wrong with America’s healthcare system? Why do we pay so much more than most developed countries but produce outcomes that often are worse than those achieved elsewhere?
For years, the finger of blame has been pointed at physicians, hospitals and the fee-for-service payment model, all of which are alleged to drive up costs and to create a system rife with inefficiency and waste. This waste is so pervasive, policy makers and pundits have alleged, that it accounts for 30% of healthcare spending – close to one trillion dollars a year, and all of it unnecessary.
Now a new and provocative book has challenged this assumption. Poverty and the Myths of Health Reform by the late Richard “Buz” Cooper, M.D. posits a different reason for the extravagant spending and apparently substandard results produced by the U.S. healthcare system. The problem is not waste or greed, but poverty. The poor, who suffer from more chronic illnesses and much shorter life spans than the better off, are inherently expensive to treat, and high healthcare spending is the result not of a wasteful healthcare system but of short-sighted social policy.
The Physicians Foundation, which commissioned the book, has produced a video about it that offers additional insights into Dr. Cooper’s thesis. But the best way to absorb the book’s vital message is to order it from Johns Hopkins Press.
The book offers a clear argument and compelling data demonstrating that America’s healthcare system is as efficient and effective as those of other developed countries once the impact of poverty has been truly accounted for. No long-term reform or enhancement of our current healthcare system can be attempted without absorbing this fundamental fact.
Merritt Hawkins was proud to work with Dr. Cooper and support his research on physician shortages and related workforce matters. We deeply regret his recent passing but believe his work will have a continued impact on the nation’s healthcare policy, as it should.
I would welcome any comments from those who know of Dr. Cooper or who have read Poverty and the Myths of Health Reform.
Phillip Miller is Vice President of Communications for Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS).
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