Thursday, August 21, 2008

Harry, Louise, and Medical Ethics

Good news! Harry and Louise are back. And they've changed a lot since they deep-sixed the Clinton health plan in 1994.

Their big concern now is cost and access. Harry has the morning paper at breakfast, and tells Louise "Health care costs are up again. Small companies are being forced to cut their plans.” She's not surprised to hear this - her friend Lisa's husband has gotten a cancer diagnosis, but couldn't afford the coverage available through the start up he works with. Harry and Louise sigh, and agree that "too many people are falling through the cracks."

Louise makes their final pitch this way: "Whoever the next president is, health care should be at the top of his agenda. Bring everyone to the table, and make it happen!"

Wonky blogs like this one don't move public opinion, but Harry and Louise might. In 1994 they were effective in scaring us about government involvement in health care. This time they're out to scare us about rising costs and reduced access - not just for the unemployed poor, but for folks like Lisa's husband as well.

They're pushing a process, not a solution. Louise gets it right - without educative leadership from the political sector, and without getting consumers, clinicians, health organizations (hospitals, PhRMA, etc), and public/private insurers actively involved, the continued deterioration in affordability and access will stay on automatic pilot.

You can visit with Harry and Louise here. I hope that Harry reads more articles about how rising costs injure patients and the public. He and Louise could play a constructive role in health system reform.