Responding to health care reform


Using the "r" word

Serious, and particularly honest, discussions about reforming the U.S. health care system (Emory Health, Summer 2009) represent a sociopolitical minefield. Health care needs are virtually infinite while resources for treatment are finite. Consequently, in the interest of equality and fairness, this must involve costs/benefits analysis in the allocation (rationing) of health care resources. With the sophistication and accuracy of available metrics, quite conceivably a monetary value can be placed on a human life. How many politicians or voters would support the use of such parameters to determine who receives medical treatment? Further, U.S. politicians at the highest levels of government have been admonished not to use the term “rationing” since this is considered a politically threatening word.  But not using “rationing” is disingenuous, and no issue can be effectively resolved until all obvious facets of the issue are honestly considered. Given that political efforts to resolve a spectrum of critical issues facing the United States have produced only marginal results, any meaningful health care reform will (A) not likely occur or (B) consist of politically expedient measures that accomplish little beyond shoving the issue(s) down the road. A rather bleak—but honest—assessment.

Dale E. Hunt,
Professor Emeritus of Dentistry
Atlanta, GA 

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