Reunion 2011 attendees participated in a panel discussion on the state of healthcare in the United States on Friday afternoon. Weighing in on the issues were President of Georgetown University Hospital Dr. Richard Goldberg ’68, Executive Vice President of Healthcare and CEO of Horizon Healthcare Christy Bell ’71, and Vice President of Medical Affairs and CMO for Finger Lakes Health Dr. Jason Feinberg ’89.
“Healthcare is an important part of everyday life, funded by 17-18 percent of the U.S. economy’s GDP. Although the U.S. spends more than two times per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world, the health outcomes from this expenditure are not commensurate,” said symposium moderator and Director of Grants at HWS Martha Bond, who came to the Colleges from the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency in Rochester, N.Y., where she was executive director of the health data, planning, and policy organization.
The issue of expenditures was key to the discussion. Goldberg noted the tremendous growth and evolution in healthcare with the advent of new technologies, an increased emphasis on safety and the increased availability of medications, particularly antibiotics. Other drivers of change in the system are money allocated, demographic evolution, new scientific developments, and the rise of consumerism.
Fielding emphasized that the stressors to the system are not just finances but value, which he defined as the quality divided by the cost. He urged for an increased emphasis on the role of primary care physicians, and subsequent rewards to these physicians for the work that they do in preventative medical care- a sentiment also maintained by Bell.
Healthcare in the United States is currently at a crossroads, said Bell, who believes a fundamental change must occur in how healthcare is delivered. He noted that hospitals and physicians must accept accountability in order to decrease costs and improve the value of medical care over the long term- a change that could lower readmissions.
After giving their individual comments on the issues, the panelists fielded questions from the audience. “Why do European men live two years longer than U.S. men?” asked Malcolm Goodrid III ’61 P’94.
Bell and Feinberg cited the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. and a difference in lifestyle between the U.S. and England, especially in diet and exercise. Goldberg went on to add that England has the advantage of being a smaller country and having a relatively homogenous population, characteristics that make it easier to administer a functioning healthcare system.
Ultimately, the discussion centered on the cost of healthcare and the need for reform to the end of life care. Bell explained that many factors have led to an 8-10 percent increase in costs such as an increase in obesity and diabetes, the evolution of technology, and a decrease in Medicare reimbursements. Goldberg noted that, until recently, consumers were buffered from the economics of the marketplace but with the increase in both consumerism and demand, the costs are now increasingly being paid for by the private sector. Feinberg added other contributing expenses include computers that need purchased every year, and the 10-year life span of a $20,000 hospital bed.