Will Healthcare Reform Make Us Healthier?

By Rebecca Wright | April 1, 2010

On March 21st the U.S. House of Representatives passed the hotly debated healthcare reform bill (and it will likely get President Obama’s signature before the ink is dry on this editorial). While this may change the health insurance situation for many Americans, I highly doubt the nation’s health will improve significantly as a result of this new law.

Healthcare (and health insurance) in this country is abysmal, annoying, a joke, a mess, even ridiculous. And in most cases people agree that you don’t get what you pay for. So how is universal access to the current healthcare system going to improve the lives of millions of Americans? It’s not. Most of us will still eat, drink and smoke whatever we want without giving a thought to the health consequences. The difference is now more of us will be covered for the expensive procedures and medicines needed to fix the health issues that crop up along the way, largely as a result of indulgent, excessive lifestyle behaviors.

With all of the medical advances and life-saving medicines discovered throughout the years, you would think the rates of major diseases would have plummeted by now. But our rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer continue to climb. Why? Because pharmaceuticals and fancy medical devices can’t do it alone.

In the early days and months of the reform bill, I was actually encouraged by a lot of its components and what President Obama had to say about it. But as the days pressed on I started to hear less and less about wellness and prevention, and more about pharmaceuticals and health insurance interests.

Upon passage of the bill by the House, John Farrell, a blogger for U.S. News & World Report, commented, “We wake up today with a healthcare system that, at its core, is just like yesterday—based on people buying health insurance from private insurance companies.” How is that a good thing? How can we improve the lives of Americans if we continue to let health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and the government for that matter, define health? Our current healthcare system puts more value on Prozac and Lipitor than it does multivitamins. And the new bill does nothing to change that. For the future, Prozac will still be $24 for a year’s supply, while a year’s supply of vitamins costs consumers nearly $400 out of their own pocket. Healthcare in general and health insurance specifically SHOULD NOT be about “WHO” gets covered but “WHAT” gets covered.

According to a new study conducted by HCD Research and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO), a majority of physicians (71%) reported they are not in favor of the Obama administration’s plans for healthcare reform. This study, which polled 900 physicians, also found that 63% would be less likely to enter medicine today based on their knowledge of healthcare reform.

Let’s be honest, this was never about health or what was in consumers’ best interest. This was about party lines, impassioned speeches and money. No Republicans backed this bill (shocker!) and most don’t even know why, except that it was un-Republican to do so. As for the Democrats, they missed the real message about healthcare—they should have worked harder at truly transforming our healthcare system, not reforming it.

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