In the nearly three years that we’ve been writing about health insurance and health care reform, I’ve read a lot of articles on the subject. Sometimes they start to blend together a bit, and the talking points start to sound tired and rehashed. But then I came across this article by Atul Gawande. In my opinion – for whatever that’s worth – it is the single best article I’ve ever read on the subject of health care costs and reform.
I don’t know what to say that Gawande hasn’t already said. I think that the article should be required reading for everyone in the health care industry. Doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, health insurance executives, pharmaceutical company employees, and health insurance agents – we all need to read this article. And really think about it. There’s a quote in the article from a doctor who says “we took a wrong turn when doctors stopped being doctors and became businessmen.” I would take that a step further and apply it to the entire health care industry. We are not in a luxury products industry, or one than can be funded with discretionary income. We all need to take a long hard look at our motivations and what we consider to be our primary responsibilities. Anyone who puts making money at the top of the list might be better served in a different profession. Obviously, making money will be somewhere on the list – we all need an income. But the health care industry isn’t a place where money should be the driving factor.
I was pleased to see that Grand Junction, Colorado was mentioned in the article as an example of a city where health care costs have been reigned in by cooperation between physicians and encouragement from the main health insurance company in town (the article doesn’t name names, but my guess is that the HMO in question is Rocky Mountain HMO, which is based in Grand Junction). Hopefully Gawande’s article in the New Yorker will encourage other cities to emulate the model that Grand Junction has created on Colorado’s western slope.