CONSUMER EDUCATION: Advocates Needed, Vladeck Says
Bruce Vladeck, the former head of the Health Care Financing Administration, writes in a San Mateo County Times op-ed that the "trend toward consumerism" in health care creates a need for "consumer advocates and ombudspeople." Vladeck notes that "consumerism is based on the premise that patients not only have the right, but a responsibility to help determine their own care." Patients are "going to need some help" if they are expected "to be more active participants in decisions about their health care," he writes, going on to suggest that patient advocates be "employed by consumer groups as well as by providers of health care." Vladeck acknowledges that the "[d]evelopment of a cadre of modern, professional consumer advisers to assist all the newly 'empowered' customers of the health care system will strike many as excessively cumbersome, bureaucratic and costly." But he rebuts this argument, writing: "[I]f we're serious about rebuilding the health care system more around marketplace principles -- of which patient sovereignty should be the first -- then we're going to have to put some resources where our rhetoric is." Vladeck notes that Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, "has long offered a master's degree program in patient advocacy and has been steadily expanding the program to address the growing needs of the health care consumer" (5/26). [Note: After leaving HCFA last year, Vladeck became a professor of health policy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He also serves on the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. Click here to read a biographical sketch.]This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.