Ask a cancer patient about the need for affordable health care. The issue of healthcare quality is very personal to me. As a former cancer patient, I couldn’t believe the out-of-pocket expenses that drastically affected my monthly budget! But affordable is only one aspect of the equation. Affordability should not produce poor quality. Yet it often does.
The debate over Obamacare is unlikely to be settled anytime soon. Even as the exchanges made their debut, we heard horror stories of crashing websites and confusing user interfaces. Fans of the law saw this as proof its popularity, while opponents viewed it as evidence of incompetence. But for all the hours spent arguing about the law, it would seem that journalists, politicians and citizens alike are still confused about what it all means. This goes not only for the details of the law itself, but also for the state of healthcare in the United States.
Certainly, there are many aspects of our healthcare system that can and should be reformed and improved. However, just because you change something does not mean you improve it. We have changed education many times in our nation, but whether or not we have improved it is certainly up for debate. The bottom line is this: what changes will actually improve health outcomes for Americans?
As I have shared in my new book, You Were Born for More, in 2006 I woke up in the intensive care unit of the world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. I had been asleep for over twelve hours. I soon learned that the seven and a half hour surgery to remove a golf-ball-sized cancerous tumor and most of my esophagus had been successful. The problem was that I was still in intensive care. I had needed an emergency procedure to prevent blood clots from circulating through my body, and I had a severe case of heart arrhythmia. So I was not out of the woods yet.
On paper, I went into surgery with a 10% chance of survival. I had already suffered a stroke and another near-fatal incident during the initial phase of my treatment. Yet because of world-class doctors and treatments, I am still here more than seven years later.
During my treatment at Johns Hopkins, I encountered people from all over the world. They spoke every imaginable language and suffered from all kinds of unusual diseases and conditions. But they were all there for the same reason I was: to get the highest quality healthcare for their problems.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.