I believe we are moving toward two different health systems. Which tier do you think you will be in?
In one system, patients will be able to see doctors promptly. They will talk to physicians by phone and email. They will have no difficulty scheduling needed surgery. If they have to go into a hospital, a "hospitalist" (who reports to them and not to the hospital administration) will be there to make sure their interests are looked after. They may even have an independent agency that reviews their medical records, goes with them when they meet with specialists and gives them advice on every aspect of their care.
In the other system, waiting times will grow for almost everything ? to get appointments with physicians, to get tests, to obtain elective surgery, etc. Patients may find that they don't have access to the best doctors or the best hospitals. They may find that the facility where they are treated does not have the latest technology. In terms of waiting times and bureaucratic hassles, health care for these patients may come to resemble the Canadian system. It may become even worse than the Canadian system.
The evolution toward a two-tiered system was already under way before Barack Obama became president. But ironically, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is accelerating the pace of change. It is doing so in four ways.
First, Obamacare is supposed to insure 32 million additional people by this time next year. If the economic studies are correct, these newly insured will try to consume twice as much medical care as they have been. In addition, most of the rest of us will be forced to have more generous coverage than we previously had. There will be a long list of preventive services that all plans will be required to cover ? with no deductible and no copayment ? and commercial insurance will be required to cover a great many services previously avoided (including, everyone must know by now, contraception). These two changes alone will boost the demand for care considerably.
John C. Goodman is President and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, and author of the acclaimed book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts." He is also the Kellye Wright Fellow in health care. The mission of the Wright Fellowship is to promote a more patient-centered, consumer-driven health care system.
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