Friday, March 28, 2008

Luncheon Roundtable: Which Way Health Reform?

The Luncheon Roundtable was energetic and lively.

In a nod to my professors at UGA who dine every day (just about) at the Faculty Dining Room on campus, I will offer a brief review of the meal. It was finely balanced with a starter of side salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing, main course of grilled chicken, mashed “potatoes” and broccoli. Dessert was a bit of a mushy mix of raspberry/wafer cake concoction that I didn’t appreciate in its entirety.

The discussion was a pretty exciting and somewhat contentious (largely good-natured….mostly) discussion about the possibilities for health care reform in the United States. David Himmelstein, M.D., associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Tom Miller, resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute, went back and forth on the barriers to health care reform and who was sort of causing the problems or standing in the way of the solutions. Karen Davis, president, The Commonwealth Fund, said that we pay more and get less care than we should. Julie Barnes, deputy director, health policy program, the New America Foundation, sounded the loudest drumbeat, and implored journalists to be positive about the possibility of health care reform and include “solutions” and not just “problems.” The mission, she says, is to “preach hope” and “dispel fears” about health care reform.
I'm not sure how much she knows about how journalism is practiced in the U.S. if she believes we'll report on the solutions. We tend to thrive on conflict for the sake of competition.

Julie Appleby from USA Today was a snappy moderator who kept things moving along.

The problem, though, is that it seems that no one can agree on these solutions or how to reach a consensus on them.

One way to get there, at least two panelists said, is to change how we pay doctors; move to a model based on quality, not quantity. Not sure how the doctors and hospitals will feel about such a change.

I had to duck out early because my contacts were bothering me…

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