Mr. McKernan pointed out that the profit motive directs health care providers to focus on those activities which provide the most profit thus leaving less profitable activities, such as family practice, sadly short of needed attention. He also discussed how proper preventive measures, i.e., staying healthy, can save huge amounts of money nationwide. Specifically, smoking, obesity, and lack of health education cause much of the nation's costs and crowded emergency rooms.
Panel member Ken Kenegos came out firmly on the side of single payer as did many of the audience members. Kenegos also pointed out that single payer would benefit tort reform efforts in that the bulk of tort case award dollars can be for lifetime medical care. A single payer would eliminate the need for that.
Panel member Dr. Janet Roberts, who has practiced medicine in both the U.S. and Canada corrected some of the misstatements made about Canada's system and emphasized some of the benefits of a public plan. Canada's government run health care system has become the whipping boy of those opposed to a government run system in the U.S. They see it as the poster child for everything that's wrong with government run healthcare. However, Dr. Roberts made it clear that she saw positive aspects to both countries' systems.
The session ended with a question and answer period for the panel members. In the end I think that the goal of the moderator of the event, Ms. Miller, was accomplished. All had engaged in dialogue, not debate, and all had learned something. Kudos to the Healthcare Alliance for hosting such a quality event.
However, in the public realm the discourse is not so polite. Both sides of the issue are poised to do battle and have ramped up the rhetoric. It is a complicated issue in which each side of the debate frequently cites success stories to support their cause and failure stories to expose the pitfalls of the their opponents' system. One thing is clear, misinformation is running rampant and so it behooves each of us to do our homework and not just accept what is said in the major media outlets, particularly from the politicians, cable "news" channels, and privately funded "attack ads" waging this war of ideals.
Finally, it is unfortunate that the American public will not be able to vote on this issue. We have to trust our elected politicians to vote on our behalf. With wealthy corporations and other generous campaign contributors dominating the politicians' attention while they are in Washington we voters have to wonder if our desires are going to be met. That is why it is so important to call and email our elected officials, particularly while they are at home during the August recess.
May thoughtful and honest discussions and the best interests of the majority of Americans prevail.
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