While attending the recent Pan American Health Organization conference, I was struck by a deceptively simple theme that came up repeatedly in presentations and in conversations with health leaders from all over Latin America and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The common refrain? “We’re all in this together.”
They were referring, of course, to the shared challenges that we in health care face as we move forward. Some of these are the same ones the field has faced for millennia, and some—such as how to provide better access to more effective, safer treatments for disease—we actually made a lot of progress on in the 20th century.
But there are others, too, that in the past decade have come to feel acute. Like doing a much better job with preventive medicine, managing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease and diabetes, moving as much health care as possible out of acute-care hospitals and into community clinics and even homes. And this of course frames the inevitable discussion around lowering the runaway cost of health care.
These challenges are urgent and daunting throughout the world. But I think that the U.S. may be on the verge of taking a big step in the right direction. One reason is the Affordable Care Act, more formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and less formally (and most widely) known as “Obamacare.”
Now, I don’t mean to offer a blanket endorsement of this complex and controversial act of legislation. Aside from the fact that this isn’t the place for politics, I respect the fact that many people have concerns about possible rising costs to some businesses and consumers, and that many people object to the government playing a larger role in any aspect of health care. There are arguments on both sides to be made. But with President Obama’s reelection, the objections become largely moot, because Obamacare—I might as well call it that—is now likely to remain the law of the land.
There is already great work under way to turn the U.S. system into a preventive care and outreach model that can really help people change their behavior to avoid NCDs, and that efficiently provides the more routine care that will keep people out of the hospital and the highest-cost part of system. It’s an approach that will lower costs and keep patients healthier. In fact, it will leave entire populations healthier.
Obamacare promises to offer a real boost to that effort. I’ll spell out how that works in my next post, and show how the U.S. can benefit from tying into similar efforts around the world.2 Comments