This article was first published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal on July 9, 2014.
Health care reform is insignificant in comparison to the fundamental purpose of the system it must change. Unlike a terminal illness, which doubles as a harbinger to remind us of the inescapable permanence of death, much of the influence of health care reform over which the nation has debated these past four years will prove to be fleeting at best. Time will shape and reshape the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in ways outside today’s imagination, but the hospital bed, that symbolic and functional centerpiece of American health care, will never be anyone’s destination of choice.
The transformation of Medicare from its humble origins in 1965 into the template for American health care’s payer system was certainly no small feat, although maintaining the Part B premiums at Medicare’s original price tag of $3.00 per month never stood a chance. Whether as a result of Medicare’s effect or in spite of it, advances in medicine since 1965 have played a large part in the program’s evolution, with today’s emphasis on performance in lieu of costs standing as a reflection of an inherent expectation that modern medicine should have the twofold intention to never do harm and excel at all times. Perhaps ACA’s greatest achievement is that it has granted an aura of entitlement to all hospital patients, for now society has not only come to expect quality medical care at any time, it also expects this service free of charge. … Read more →