Let's do health system reform in Utah
From the Deseret News editorial page 7/13/09:
Utahns should unite for health-care reform
By Joseph Q. Jarvis
Utahns are skeptical about the health-care bills under discussion in Washington, D.C. We'd rather take care of ourselves. But East Coast newspapers also are critical. The New York Times carried a story stating that "Congress has not seemed willing to change the basic economics of health care" despite the fact that "medical costs are on a pace to make the federal government insolvent." The article ends with an observation and then a question: "The current health-care system is hard-wired to be bloated and inefficient. Doesn't that seem like a problem that a once-in-a-generation effort to reform health care should address?"
Why doesn't Congress address the bloat and inefficiency in our health system? The Washington Post has the answer. Citing figures recently published, the Post puts health-care lobbying at more than $120 million for the first quarter, a record amount, which annualizes to $1 million per member of Congress. According to the Post, "the aim of the lobbying blitz is simple: to minimize the damage to insurers, hospitals and other major sectors while maximizing the potential of up to 46 million uninsured Americans as new customers."
What we in Utah would call waste, health-care corporations call business profits as usual. And, yes, the Utah Legislature has fallen prey to the same lobbying blitz, on a smaller scale. Recent health-care reform legislation in Utah merely props up the failing business model of health insurers.
When elected legislators, both national and state, fail to solve a critical problem, we voters have another option: ballot initiatives.
I'm tired of paying the world's highest taxes for health care and then watching the system waste half of my hard-earned money while excluding millions of my fellow taxpayers and delivering poor-quality care. I'm fed up with hospitals that injure patients so often that preventable injury to patients is the fifth leading cause of death in our country. I'm angry that I know many people who have paid thousands of dollars each year in health-care taxes and then paid thousands more in premiums, co-payments, deductibles and stagnant wages to offset employer health-benefit costs, only to be denied health benefits at a time of illness or injury in their family and bankrupted as they try to care for themselves.
I fear that the greatest economy ever known in the history of the world is being brought to its knees by runaway health-care costs, which rob us of the tax base needed to educate our children for the high paying jobs of the future and steal resources from today's product development. We've lost the U.S. automobile industry to health-care costs. How many more American businesses must we sacrifice before something is done?
I'm furious that Congress and the Utah Legislature only pass so-called health-reform legislation if it protects the interests of health insurers, who sell arguably the most useless product in American commerce.
I invite my neighbors in Utah to join me in changing our health-care system. We are the ones who built with our pennies and dollars, inch by inch, a remarkable region-leading system of care and health education. What we built we can defend from corporate and federal takeover. I have founded the Utah Healthcare Initiative, a political issue committee, to serve as the vehicle to lobby for patients in Utah. On the Web site (www.utahhealthcareinitiative.com) you can find an executive summary of the draft proposal for health-system reform, which together we can place on the ballot. Join the conversation (www.utahhealthcareinitiative.com/blog) about sustainable health-system reform by Utahns for Utah patients.
Dr. Joseph Q. Jarvis is the chairman of the Utah Healthcare Initiative.