New cover story of BusinessWeek: Healthcare is driving the US economy. Healthcare! 1.7 million new jobs since 2001. The main region of job growth is what BW calls the "Health Belt," stretching from Maine to Pennsylvania, across the Midwest, and then down South.
Amazing. The article features former insurance and appliance salesfolks who now have lucrative jobs in nursing. And small towns that thrive off the growth of local hospitals and clinics.
The question of course is, with all this new personnel, is healthcare really getting better? Well, um, not necessarily... first off, BW reports that some economists are hoping to curb healthcare growth, due to concerns that "healthcare will absorb too much of the workforce and squeeze out other types of jobs."
But can we get equally good care with fewer workers? David Goodman, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School, is quoted as saying: "What we have consistently found is that the supply of physicians... has rather little influence on patient outcomes."
Huh? I beg to differ. Why is that our doctors are typically so rushed during visits? Rarely return our phone calls, or have "new policies" that forbid their office workers from faxing patients' subscriptions to pharmacies and other helpful gestures? Because they are trying to do more with less, right?! At least that's what they've been bemoaning for years now, and I believe it.
This takes us right to the heart of the "Consumer-Driven Healthcare" model, a "movement in America to change the way decisions are made in our healthcare system. Instead of insurance companies making all the decisions about how people will receive their healthcare, consumers are taking back the power over their own lives." (Also see Envisioning 2.0's blog series on the topic.)
The concept is FAB. But is it working? I'd answer that with a resounding "Not Yet!"
The main tangible instance of this movement is the Healthcare Choice Act and emergence of the health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) -- savings accounts that let you to save tax-deferred money for healthcare expenses whenever you might need it. You can take the money out without paying tax, as long as you're using it for healthcare expenses.
But some would argue that this may all just be a front to shift the bulk of healthcare costs onto patients' shoulders.
Also, Fellow Consumers with Diabetes, be honest: Even though we are obliged to drive our own healthcare, when was the last time you felt like The System was supporting you, rather than standing in your way? Please take a moment to read my latest dLife column, "Consumer-Driven Healthcare, My Ear," and let me know if you agree.