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Checking the pulse of American health care

Checking the pulse of American health care

John Donvan
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
So, that’s a radical statement, isn’t it? It’s also the resolution we’re debating this Thursday at 5:45 ET/4:45 CT.
 
Remember when it was the nearly opposite thing people used to say: “America’s health care is the best in the world?”
 
Politicians made that assertion all the time, including presidents – at least as recently as George W. Bush. Sure, it was campaign rally rhetoric, the mom and apple pie kind. It was also a point of pride to those who wanted to believe it.  And yes, it was even narrowly arguable, given the U.S. lead in certain areas of research and technical innovation.
 
But statistics tell another story about us Americans. We spend three times more on healthcare than 31 other relatively well-off nations, but we are last among them in life expectancy (Ireland and Portugal do better). Other stats, related to infant mortality and access to care, are also unimpressive.  And then, of course, there is the unsettled question of what sort of system we can all agree to. Imperfect Obamacare faces yet another possible repeal vote this week. Who knows what uncertain place that will lead us?
 
Can we salvage something from what works? Or does our system – comprising a conglomerate of players like hospitals, doctors’ groups, pharm firms and insurance companies – require a major do-over, a “clean slate” reboot that may cost some of those players their standing and their income?
 
That’s at the heart of the debate I'll be moderating, with four of the nation’s leading thinkers on this question. It’s a pleasure to be presenting this one at the Mayo Clinic’s Transform Conference, with the Mayo Clinic Center of Innovation as our partner. The clinic, of course, has its own place in medical history. Maybe, on Thursday, we’ll make some history together.
 
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