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MSNBC’s First Read has dubbed today “Public Option Day” for the Senate Finance Committee. The Committee’s health care bill still has a chance for bipartisan support — but as of yet, it hasn’t included plans for a government-run health insurance option. The inclusion of such an option in the Senate bill could alienate Republicans and some moderate Democrats — but according to many Schweitzer Fellows and Fellows for Life, it could be an important step in improving the health of our country’s underserved communities.

As the Committee deliberates, here’s a roundup of highlights from our “Fellows Weigh In On Health Care Reform” series:

  • “Whether or not a patient with cancer receives treatment should not be dependent on whether or not they have a job with an employer well-off enough to offer adequate health insurance. As a society, we need to prioritize health for all, because healthy people leads to healthy economies, not the other way around.” — 2006-07 Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellow Eijean Wu
  • “We need the courage to remember the job of the health care system ought to be to serve its customers — us, the consumers and patients — and not just those who profit from it. History shows us that health reform is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. While expanding access for the uninsured is a worthy goal, I believe we need to focus on several other important issues such as reducing other barriers to care, and making care more affordable by fundamentally changing how we deliver it.” — 1993-94 Boston Schweitzer Fellow Rushika Fernandopulle, MD, MPP
  • “A truly efficient and effective healthcare system seamlessly integrates and partners consumers/patients with healthcare providers, researchers, and even stakeholders in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Meaningful healthcare reform needs to recognize this and lay the foundation for a “learning healthcare system” where the discoveries and outcomes in the clinic inform the research questions, drug development, and diagnostics we explore in the lab.” — 2001-02 Boston Schweitzer Fellow Skye Schulte, MS, MPH
  • “A fragmented system driven by this year’s profits is ill-equipped to address the long term health needs of any in our population, particularly the most vulnerable members of our society who simultaneously lack ideal commercial health insurance and are at higher risk for poor medical outcomes. Piecemeal change will not fix this core problem. However, grand change has not yet come because people are still making money on the status quo. The day will come when it will be profitable for our nation to undertake grand change. The day has passed when waiting for that change costs us anything less than the lives of our poor and our children.” — 1997-98 North Carolina Schweitzer Fellow Tim Lahey, MD, MMSc
  • “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.” — 2006-07 Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellow Elizabeth Salisbury, MD
  • “From my perspective, the U.S. does not even have a health care system, but a relatively ineffectual and wasteful patchwork of mini-systems designed for various purposes over time.  The problem is that we have not decided, as a nation, that health care really matters.” — 2005 Lambarene Fellow Ted Lord, MD
  • “There are other steps I’d like to see after that to change our insurance system because it is a mess, but as a starting point, every American needs to have insurance.” — 2007-08 Boston Schweitzer Fellow Becky Hanson, MSOT