Health Care Reform Must Put Patient First

Americans are sick and tired of being sick and tired of America's failing health care system.

As President Barack Obama insisted in his State of the Union, we cannot walk away from health reform. It is too soon to write an obituary on much-needed changes in how we treat patients and pay for that care. Lives are at stake.

But we should not confuse the president's message as permission for more political maneuvering to adopt a Senate plan that the public has soundly rejected in the polls and recently at the Massachusetts ballot box.

Doctors and hospitals should be able to interface their offices with patients' medical records on an electronic basis. Not only is paper inefficient, it can kill.

Instead we need a rational, bipartisan approach that is truly person-centered. After all, Americans want a remedy that will actually:

  • Make health care more affordable. Eliminating waste and inefficiencies must be hallmarks of an effort to reduce cost while emphasizing prevention can avoid the need for costly interventions.

  • Make health care more available by ensuring each American has access to quality, skilled professionals and health care facilities in communities where they live.

  • Make health care fulfill the promise of personalized medicine that assures care will be rational and not rationed, and that quality and not costs drive decisions.

Transforming health care is a complex operation that cannot be accomplished with a sledge hammer of a 2,000-page bill. A bipartisan approach could include:

  • Making insurance portable and cheaper by allowing Americans to shop for it across state lines and to price policies online. Make the tax code friendly so Americans can deduct their premiums just as businesses do.

  • Moving communities to an electronic health system and electronic patient records. Doctors and hospitals should be able to interface their offices with patients' medical records on an electronic basis. Not only is paper inefficient, it can kill.

  • Eliminating waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.

  • Enacting civil justice reform so physicians and hospitals are only sued for just cause, not for an easy payout. All of us pay as much as 30 percent more for health care due to "defensive medicine" because doctors and hospitals require patients to undergo unnecessary tests to keep from getting sued.

We invite Congress and the president with a new set of eyes on health care to truly engage in bipartisan talks. Genuine transformation requires a sincere commitment to change, listening to the American people and always putting patients first.

Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI. Andrew von Eschenbach is former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and senior strategist at the Center for Health Transformation.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Sharon Dominick

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