UConn professors agree current healthcare system is not stable
Incoming president of the American Medical Association Dr. Barbara McAneny recently said
the current system of healthcare in the United States cannot last, according to a Concordia University Wisconsin press release, and some University of Connecticut Health doctors agree with her claims.
“If we continue as we have been, we will not have any money left,” McAneny said to a room of 150 business executives and health care providers at Concordia University Wisconsin on April 11. “We cannot spend all of our discretionary income on health care. This system cannot continue as it is. We’re going to have to look at all people; not just employers, not just doctors, but also patients.”
UConn Health department head and pharmacy professor Dr. Mike White said the rate at which the United States healthcare system spends money is unsustainable for the future.
“In 2180, 100 percent of spending will be only on healthcare if we continue at this rate,” White said.
White said he wrote an op-ed piece on the Orphan Drug Act of 1983 which incentivised pharmaceutical companies to produce drugs for rare diseases, known as “orphan drugs.”
White said that while the act did lead to an influx of life-saving drugs, a number of those drugs ultimately cost up to half a million dollars, equivalent to the price of a home.
“When it comes down to life and death, people need to see past the short-term or see past the impact it may have on the individual,” White said. “If it costs $10 billion and saves one child, it’s a terrible failure because that $10 billion is coming from somewhere. If you use it for this, you can’t use it for anything else.”
UConn Health professor of medicine Victor Guillermo Villagra said the number one drawback of the system is that no one can control its prices for health services.
“Our system is, number one, too costly, and the root causes of this is the fact that we have no mechanisms for controlling the price that pharmaceutical companies, hospitals (and) doctors charge for their services,” Villagra said.
In addition to cost, Villagra said another dilemma is that the system is based on the principle of free market economics.
“We don’t treat healthcare as a basic human right,” Villagra said. “Healthcare is not a commodity, it’s not something you can choose to use or not. If you have an inflamed appendix, it needs to come out or you die. If you have cancer, you need to get treatment. If you have a heart attack, you cannot not have it. We treat it as a commodity and that is morally wrong and practically wrong.”
White said issues of affordability and treatment of healthcare in the U.S. can only begin to be solved through honesty and looking not at just individual medical cases, but the state of healthcare as a whole.
“I think we can do tremendous, beneficial things if someone was willing to be honest and show (citizens) the continuous trends and the impact of not doing something and (come) up with an independent political panel able to implement some of those changes,” White said. “It’s easier to have extra debt than to tell people who can’t afford to pay for something that we just don’t have the money, but that’s the reality, and if we can’t accept that reality, we can’t deal with the reality.”
White said McAneny’s honesty is a necessity for beginning the conversation on how to effectively deal with healthcare.
“I was happy to see that someone from such a prominent organization was willing to initiate that conversation,” White said. “As people graduate from the university and have to come off their parent’s insurance, that is going to be a personal choice. They have to be a part of that conversation that allows people to make realistic choices [even though] sometimes the answers may not seem very clear cut.”
Lillian Whittaker is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.