Former HHS Officials Criticize Health Care System as ‘Costly, Inefficient, Unfair’
The nation's health care system is "too costly, inefficient [and] unfair," and it needs "an overhaul," according to several former HHS officials, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. F. David Matthews, who served under President Ford; Joseph Califano, who led the department under President Carter; Louis Sullivan, who was President Bush's HHS secretary; Donna Shalala, HHS secretary under President Clinton; and David Satcher, surgeon general during the Clinton administration, met yesterday in Atlanta to tape a public-broadcast program sponsored by the Southern Center for International Studies. They said the current health system has many "flaws," including an emphasis on "high-tech" treatments instead of primary care, barriers that prevent equal access to health services and a U.S. population that "smokes too much, drinks too much and grows more obese with each generation," the Journal-Constitution reports. "We need to shift the mix of physicians from specialties to primary care," Sullivan said. Califano added, "We are spending a fortune to keep old people alive for an extra year, while our children suffer terribly."
The former secretaries indicated that the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, hospitals, insurers, Congress and the American people "share responsibility" for the problems in the health system, the Journal-Constitution reports. They added that inequities in the U.S. health system are no "closer to resolution than they were during the quarter of a century that they presided over it." Matthews said, "The big barrier to health care is cost." Shalala added, "The health care system can't survive in its present state, because we can't afford the way it is organized. But there is no agreement about what the solution should be, and all of the large steps taken in the past -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- were possible only because there was a broad consensus." Satcher said, "We are being pennywise and pound foolish. We spend $20 billion a year to combat an epidemic of diabetes and other obesity-related diseases. And yet everywhere we look, schools are cutting physical education programs out of the curriculum because they can't afford them" (Toner, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/19).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.