The availability of quality, affordable care for all Americans is central to my vision for healthcare reform. All too often, though, the imperative of retaining and improving the quality of care is lost in the health reform debate.
Just this month, the Commonwealth Fund released new survey data documenting a troubling story about waste and medical errors that providers know all too well. Fully one in three chronically ill Americans reported medical errors. And despite the fact that we spend over twice as much per person on health in the U.S. compared with other industrialized nations, our life expectancy in the U.S. has fallen to 42nd in the world, down from 11th two decades ago. We rank 40th worldwide in child mortality, and our disease prevalence for chronic illnesses such as diabetes is considerably higher than our European competitors.
No one understands these facts better than our professional and paraprofessional healthcare workforce and their management colleagues. In the richest, most industrialized country in the world, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers face countless systemwide roadblocks to delivering high-quality, patient-centered care. These include: healthcare delivery systems that are all too often driven by the services that are covered, rather than the care that is needed; inadequate investment in and dissemination of clinical comparative effectiveness research to empower providers and patients to make the best treatment choices; few incentives to appropriately prevent and manage chronic disease conditions; underinvestment in critical primary care, nursing and other personnel; and, of course, the tens of millions of under- and uninsured Americans, whose uncompensated care is taxing providers and levying a hidden tax on those fortunate enough to have insurance.
America faces a choice: Continue the status quo or reform our healthcare system to tackle the problems of quality, cost and coverage. And this choice has real consequences. Papered-over policy prescriptions that allow the status quo to continueor even make them worsewould condemn our citizens and those who care for them to a system that increases costs and the numbers of the uninsured with no improvement in quality. I have great confidence that Americans will reject this option and choose to support a new direction that preserves and strengthens the best of our system and fixes what is broken.
My health reform vision, the American Health Choices Plan, is based on three key building blocks: quality, affordability and coverage for all Americans.