Kaiser Health News, today, featured an interview with Dr. John Kitzhaber. You may recall that Dr. Kitzhaber is the former Democratic governor of Oregon who shook up that state’s Medicaid program a few years back with a plan that some thought was rationing. He is also the person I wrote about back in June under the headline: Kitzhaber Delivers Wake Up Call to AHIP.
In that June 4, blog post, I referred to Kitzhaber as being the third wheel on a panel at AHIP Institute that featured Jeb Bush, the former Governor of the State of Florida and Howard Dean, MD, Chairman, Democratic National Committee,
Rather than dwelling of the finer details of how to fix the current system to provide coverage to more people, as Bush and Dean did in their remarks, Kitzharber told the representatives of America’s Health Insurance Plans gathered in San Diego 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.”
Kitzhaber 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.
A system that promotes health
“If we really want to address health,” he told the AHIP audience, “we need to work on developing a system that promotes health and not one that is 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.”
According to Kaiser Health News (KHN), Kitzhaber, 62, who is again running for governor in 2010, is still promoting unorthodox strategies to address U.S. health care problems.
This issue will bankrupt the country
“The problem with the debate going on in the nation’s capital today is that it has nothing to do with creating a system that provides for the health of Americans,” he said recently at a presentation at Elmhurst College in suburban Chicago. “It’s about paying for the system we already have.” Not only is that system a clunker, he told KHN that he also believes it is a cash-guzzler that will bankrupt the country.
Kitzhaber told KHN, “To fix the health care system, people are going to have to be willing to put their personal interest behind the general public interest. This issue, if we don’t get our arms around it, is going to bankrupt the nation.”
“In 16 months, the leading edge of the baby boomer generation is going to come on Medicare. That is going to drive the national debt through the ceiling. We are in a trajectory, if nothing happens, to default on our national debt. The implications are staggering.”
Kitzhaber’s comments made sense in June and the make even better sense in October, now that we have seen the approaches Congress is taking to “fix” healthcare.