Kitzhaber Delivers Wake Up Call to AHIP

It is far too easy sometimes to get ourselves bogged down in the intricacies of a debate. Take healthcare for instance. We can talk about the merits of having a public health plan versus the benefits of having the private sector use its innovation to show us the way out of the growing financial woes being caused by our current healthcare system.

Once in a while we need a slap in the face, a cold shower, that Americano with no room for cream.  That is exactly what John A. Kitzhaber, MD, Governor of Oregon 1995-2003, delivered to those gathered to hear the keynote address this morning at AHIP Institute in San Diego, CA.

The third wheel on a panel that featured Jeb Bush, the former Governor of the State of Florida and Howard Dean, MD, Chairman, Democratic National Committee, 2005-2009; Founder, Democracy for America, and the former Governor of Vermont, Kitzhaber stole the show.

Dressed in a jacket, white shirt, tie, pressed blue jeans and cowboy boots, Kitzharber made no bones about the fact that we are borrowing from our kids to pay for health care today. But, rather than dwelling of the finer details of how to fix the current system to provide coverage to more people, Kitzharber told the representatives of America’s health insurance plans that they were missing the point and needed to change their business model.

“Healthcare is a means to an end,” he said. “The end is health.”

Kitzharber noted that most of the factors that contribute to poor health in this country have nothing to do with access to health insurance coverage. They are lifestyle choices, environmental issues and so fourth.

If we really want to address health, we need to work on developing a system that promotes health and not one that is not geared towards spending massive amounts of money on people after they have reached a health crisis that could have been prevented with the proper emphasis in prevention and wellness.

I think that slap in the face was exactly what this audience needed, and I think they knew it too judging by the amount of applause Kizthaber received for his comments.

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