Debating Healthcare

October 10, 2012

Last week ushered in the heart of campaign season with the first of three presidential debates held in Denver, CO. Healthcare, understandably, featured heavily in the proceedings, making its first appearance a mere six minutes into the 90 minute exchange of ideas and issue positions between Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Democratic incumbent Barack Obama. The debate identified some stark difference between the two candidates, but, as PFCD Chairman Ken Thorpe pointed out to CNN in his post-debate commentary, “It was about as substantive a debate as I think we've ever seen. The problem is, even after this debate, I don't think people truly understand the similarities and the differences in what these candidates are proposing for health care.”

To underscore Dr. Thorpe’s observation, there were several issues discussed that muddied the waters for viewers simply because of their complexity and nuance including: 1) who, exactly is responsible for the rising cost of insurance, 2) the continued need for stemming systemic fraud and abuse in both the Medicare and Medicaid systems, 3) the impact of sending Medicaid back to the states exclusively and 4) how much funding, exactly, has been cut from Medicare as a result of the President’s Affordable Care Act legislation. These issues will no doubt remain confusing given their complexity, yet all have long-term ramifications on the one issue the candidates could agree on, the need to do more to control costs in the healthcare system. Controlling costs is an issue on which PFCD works effortlessly toward a solution through education on the importance of preventing chronic disease, encouraging health and wellness and highlighting the strides we make nationwide toward a more communicative, collaborative approach to treating patients.

Holding the idea of collaborative systems up against, for example, Medicare in its current form, Dr. Thorpe articulated the benefits of moving toward a more coordinated network: “If you take the typical patient who is chronically ill, they will be overweight or obese, they suffer from bad cholesterol, hypertension, asthma and diabetes – that means they take 10 to 15 medications and there is no team-based care. Going to separate doctors with their own plans is expensive. These integrated group plans work well and the ongoing preventive care they provide – working with doctors, nutritionists, nurses, nurse practitioners and the rest – ultimately save on costs."

While this issue is much larger that any one debate can allow for meaningful discourse, we encourage both candidates to continue examining any and all options that would emphasize a collective focus on investing in and promoting ways to both better tackle the incidence of chronic disease and reduce health care spending.