Let Facts, Not Fiction Improve Health Care

The Detroit News featured an opinion-editorial on September 3 by Herbert C. Smitherman, Jr., MD, MPH, president and chief executive officer of Health Centers Detroit Medical Group about the urgency for health care reform from a provider perspective. Health Centers Detroit Medical Group is a Federally Qualified Health Center ‘Look-Alike’ that operates three Community Health Centers in Detroit. Dr. Smitherman is also assistant dean of Community and Urban Health at Wayne State University School of Medicine/Detroit Medical Center.

I see the urgency for federal health care reform every day in my urban practice.

Take the case of a 29-year-old woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The cancer was caught early enough to be treated with surgery, but she couldn’t afford it. Her company didn’t offer insurance along with her low-paying job. She couldn’t afford insurance herself and made too much in income to qualify for government assistance.

Our office eventually got her the medical care she needed, but the time she needed to take off to have the surgery and recover caused her to lose her job. Now she can’t afford to pay her mounting medical bills.

This story, which I see repeated in many different ways, shows that the United States provides the best medical care in the world, but has the worst way of paying for it. Unless the system is reformed, physicians like myself and other health care providers will continue to see the numbers of such hardship cases rise. The status quo is unsustainable and unaffordable for the health and economic future of this country.

The problem is critical, and President Barack Obama’s health care proposals offer a solution. But scare tactics about the reform plans are steering the country away from having a reasonable debate. Americans should let facts, not fiction, drive the discussion so we can reach a social consensus.

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