Former President & CEO, INTEGRIS Health

A Better Introspection

Published in The Journal Record
September 21, 2016

I love to sing to my young granddaughters the song, “Puff the Magic Dragon.” If you’re old enough you may remember this ditty from the 1960’s as performed by Peter, Paul, and Mary.  The song tells the story of a dragon named Puff that was the favorite toy of the owner Jackie Favor.  At the end of the song Jackie grows up and no longer has use for his favorite stuffed animal, Puff.  In other words, as we move through life we disregard or find less use for the things once important to us.

Maybe it is time for both political parties to move on from the ideological positions that have become institutionalized in their particular political dogma. On the Democratic side the desire for a single payer system moves increasingly to the left.  It is embodied in pronouncements of Bernie Sanders telling us it is a crime for the richest nation on earth to not provide health care to all of its citizens.  The economic consequences of this position on the taxpayer seem to have little impact on this thinking.  If our current Medicare system is any guide a single payer system for all without major controls would ensure the insolvency of the country.  The Republicans, while a whole world away in the politics of health care, are not much more insightful.  Their position centers around selling insurance across state lines and letting the consumer have a larger role in determining their own health plan.

Both of these assumptions are childlike in their approach and focus more on the payment for health services than they do on the actual delivery of those services. While payment reform is not unimportant, there are far more influential factors that should be addressed.  First, if the Institute of Medicine is correct, we may be the most over treated and over diagnosed citizens in the world.  The IOM puts this figure at 40% of unnecessary care.

Second, while we rank poorly in national health outcomes such as longevity, we are also number one in obesity and many other unhealthy behaviors. Do we suppose there is a link?  Duh!

So, before we commit ourselves to either party’s simplistic solutions perhaps we should take a moment for a better introspection.

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