As the national debate over health care rages, we’re asking Schweitzer Fellows and Fellows for Life — who are working directly with the populations whose needs are unmet under our current health care system — to weigh in.
Today, we talk with 2006-07 Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellow Elizabeth Salisbury, MD. As a Fellow, Salisbury taught prenatal health education workshops for young Latina woman and their partners at the Infant Welfare Society. She focused on providing a setting in which the women could share stories and concerns, and support each other. Now completing her residency, Salisbury is an ardent advocate for health care reform. She shares her thoughts below.
Do you think the structure of our health care system needs to be changed, in order to truly address, reduce, and ultimately eliminate health disparities? How so?
Absolutely. I support a single-payer system. I believe it is the most humane and equitable approach to health care. I also believe that it would be the most affordable.
What is the single most important issue meaningful health care reform needs to address?
Prevention. Part of prevention would first be providing care for everyone. We need to have more focus on prevention, both in terms of medical reimbursement and the number physicians in primary care vs. subspecialty care. Patients need to have access to their medical information and be encouraged to play a more active role in their own health care.
From your personal experience, is there a certain specific anecdote that best illustrates what’s broken about our health care system?
There are so many — I am repeatedly frustrated when I see patients who are admitted to the hospital that could have easily been prevented or treated in a clinic setting a few weeks earlier had they had access to such care. However, because they are uninsured, they put off care and eventually come into the ER with a very severe infection or otherwise dangerous health condition. They are then admitted to the intensive care unit and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on their care, only for this cost to be paid by the hospital system because most uninsured patients can’t afford such a bill (that’s why they avoided going to a doctor in the first place).
It is an inefficient, ineffective, unfair system that desparately needs to be fixed.
Are you encouraged or discouraged by the current political conversations about health care reform? Why?
I’ve been discouraged by the fact that politicians seem too afraid to even discuss single payer. The pharmaceutical industry and the private insurance companies have way too much lobbying power to allow us to get where we need to be.
Agree or disagree with Salisbury’s viewpoint? Let us know by leaving a comment!