The White House Health Care Summit: A Nurse’s Perspective
On Thursday, President Obama held a summit to discuss our current state of health care. It was attended by representatives of various health care organizations as well as a sampling of senators and representatives. I also had the pleasure of attending. (Okay, I didn’t really attend but I watched the live stream and tweeted about it, so that’s kind of like attending, right?) At any rate, I think our health care woes can be summed up rather succinctly: We want better health care, for more people, and we want it to cost less. If only the answers were that simple. As you would expect at an event with plenty ‘o congressmen in attendance there was lots of complaining and pontificating. Despite that, I managed to suss out some interesting ideas for you ; ) Nurses were well-represented by Rebecca Patton, president of the ANA. As a nurse, I’m proud to say that she was one of the few people bringing actual ideas to the table, rather than just complaining about the situation. She presented the idea that nurses should be allowed to use the full extent of their clinical skills. I took this to mean nurse practitioners should be allowed to practice, and RNs should be utilized more for their clinical skills rather than just doing endless rote tasks and paperwork. She also suggested that more public reporting of outcomes and staff ratios should be required. I think this is a great idea, although it doesn’t address the issue of lowering health care costs. A facility that has a low nurse-patient ratio is certainly going to have higher costs, unless they choose to cut corners somewhere else. Daniel Smith, president of the American Cancer Society discussed raising the tobacco tax. The argument against this is if you raise the tax on cigarettes, you will disincentivize people to smoke, hence you will not raise more revenue in tobacco tax. But if the tax hike is significant enough (say by 75%) and the amount of smokers reduces by only 15%, you’re going to have a net increase in tobacco tax revenue. Bonus points: This could facilitate a reduction in lung cancer and COPD; thus saving more money down the road. The idea was also presented that we utilize more home care services for chronic illnesses and end of life care. I couldn’t agree more. First of all, it cuts down on nosocomial infections, and secondly, I think people would rather receive treatment in their own homes, particularly if we can show that this improves outcomes. Also, what a great way to utilize your nursing workforce. We still have a long way to go towards improving our health care system. There was also a lot of talk of “we’re all going to have to pay our share, and sacrifice a little bit,” (Wait – wasn’t the the whole point to NOT sacrifice better care, and to NOT have to pay more?) Really this just means that some of us will be required to pay higher taxes to fund all of this. One group that was conspicuously missing from the health care summit was doctors. That’s unfortunate. After all, doctors are the one group that really spend their time at the intersection between reimbursement and patient care. Shouldn’t we be listening to some of their ideas and solutions?