Former President & CEO, INTEGRIS Health
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access to health care

Solving a Dilemma

Published in The Journal Record
February 26, 2020

My parents, particularly my mother, taught me to be polite and deferential to women.  Gestures such as holding the door or a lady’s chair was considered polite and gentlemanly.  As I get older I find it’s not uncommon for women to now hold the door open for me.  I suspect these modest gestures can be traced all the way back to the chivalrous acts of French and English noblemen who were called knights.  Part of their mantra was to display courtesy, kindness, and deference to the opposite sex.  In fact, the word chivalrous gets its meaning from a French phrase having to do with horses since the knights were usually mounted.

For years the tradition in health care was that the poor should be taken care of by physicians and institutions based on their ability to pay.  It would not be uncommon for rural doctors to be compensated by their patients and families with a sack of potatoes or a bushel of peaches.

This began to change as the technology of health care became more expensive and scientifically robust.  For hospitals to attain this new technology they would have to generate a significant amount of cash to make these expensive capital acquisitions.  The technology surrounding health care has become amazingly sophisticated but also amazingly expensive.  The ability for health care institutions to make this technology widely available but also cheap enough for the average citizen to enjoy has disappeared.

The advent of health insurance, both private and governmental, has removed some of the barriers to access, but still wide segments of our population must rely on the generosity of providers when accessing the health system.

So, we are left with a dilemma.  The more sophisticated our health devices, procedures, and training become, the more it becomes out of reach to the average citizen without the help of some external payment system.

To solve this dilemma, it is now suggested that the only humane and reasonable choice is to provide health care to everyone at taxpayers’ expense.  Ultimately, we will be presented with a Hobson’s Choice of providing health care services to everyone while dumbing down technological advances or leaving a significant segment of our population either without the latest innovation or relying on the generosity of the providers’ community.

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