There’s no doubt that sweeping health care reform is needed to heal America’s broken system. The ballooning cost of insurance and climbing number of uninsured are evidence for the need to act. With President Obama’s budget outline that contains a 10-year, $634 billion reserve fund1 to aid in financing universal health coverage, the necessary action has been put in motion. From spirited support to tough opposition, opinion leaders have started to weigh in, but if we are going to get anywhere, the American people, including health care professionals, will need to make sacrifices.

In a simplified summary of the health care components of the reserve fund, it would:

  • “extend health insurance to millions more Americans and at the same time begin to control escalating medical bills that threaten the solvency of families, businesses and the government.”2
  • “improve the quality of care and bring much-needed efficiency to a health system.”2
  • “pave the way for government to approve generic versions of biologic drugs.”3

While the above initiatives are all very well in intent, they do come at a cost, according to Michael D. Tanner. “We know, from the failure of national health care systems around the world as well as the inefficiency, high cost and poor quality of government-run health care systems… that that is not the type of health care reform that we need,” he wrote in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece.4

Sleep professionals also have expressed their discontent with Obama’s health care reform plans. “Obama’s government has been very clear that the financing of health care reform will involve significant reductions in Medicare and Medicaid costs, which, of course, translates into reductions in reimbursements to providers—aka physicians and hospitals,” says Jay Fleitman, MD, who is board certified in pulmonary and sleep medicine and practices in Northampton, Mass.

Responding to such objections, a New York Times editorial5 stated, “Those critics who will inevitably say that he [President Obama] is overreaching in the midst of an economic crisis should listen to the millions of Americans—employers, employees and the unemployed—struggling with the crushing costs of health care.”

Though there is disagreement about Obama’s plan, I, for one, agree that in order to have a sustained, affordable health care system, changes and sacrifices need to be made in order to get there. For health care professionals, that may mean less income due to lower health costs. According to an article from the New York Times, Obama’s plan is “likely to meet stiff opposition from some doctors and insurers” because the plan would permit Medicare officials to refuse to pay for ineffective treatments, reducing the government’s budget and private health expenditures, since insurers traditionally follow Medicare’s lead.6

With looming sacrifices ahead if the budget’s objectives materialize, Americans, according to a Washington Post article,7 will have “to take a broader view of their own self-interest—to see that the benefits they’ll get from finally balancing the budget or reforming health care… are so great that they will more than offset the sacrifices they might have to make in terms of paying higher taxes or losing a subsidy or accepting some increase in government regulation.”

—Franklin A. Holman
[email protected]