Former Treasury Secretary Pushes Health Care Reform
"We are sufficiently wealthy and advanced as a society that we should consider financial access to needed medical care a birthright" in a "context that joins rights with responsibilities to separate it from the popular notion of an entitlement, which is often little more than a handout," Paul O'Neill, a former secretary of the Department of Treasury, writes in a New York Times opinion piece.
According to O'Neill, all U.S. residents "should provide as they can for their own medical care so they do not impose their own requirements on others," and "we should mandate that all Americans pay in advance for coverage of catastrophic medical needs."
He writes that the "costs of catastrophic care would be spread across the population through insurance," although "there would still be large deductibles for most Americans for initial care," with financial assistance for "those people with little or no income or wealth." In addition to "providing care to all," such a system would prompt residents to "shop for the best product" because they would have a "significant personal cost until the catastrophic coverage took over," O'Neill writes.
He adds that such a system also could "lead us toward creating a framework for continuous learning by doctors and hospitals" to help improve quality of care. "If ... the government required providers to report every error within 24 hours, the quality of care would rise considerably," O'Neill writes, adding, "In return, rather than having malpractice cases go to the civil courts, we could establish an independent body to determine the economic damage to the injured party and pay it from the general Treasury revenues." The "collection of data on medical errors could also be part of a broader effort to create a common national standard" for electronic health records, according to O'Neill (O'Neill, New York Times, 10/16).