Americans are paying $2.5 trillion for $1.5 trillion worth of health-care goods and services. That should not be the case. They should be getting better value, said former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, R-Minn., after presenting the statistics Friday.
Founder and chairman of the National Institute of Health Policy at Opus College School of Business, University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, Durenberger said the U.S. is ready for health-care reform that provides service and value.
For more than 30 years, Durenberger has been involved in analyzing the nation’s medical components — and clinical efficiency — and preaching that there is a better way.
“I’ve served with four presidents. I’m optimistic about our country and people. We’re going through a very difficult time...the most difficult I’ve ever seen,” Durenberger told a River of Grass Ballroom packed tight with Forum Club of Southwest Florida members. The event room is in the Naples Beach Hotel’s convention center.
Noting that he was born in the depths of the 1930s depression, Durenberger said the time for health-care reform had to come eventually.
“I’m glad it came in my lifetime,” said Durenberger, who was the only Minnesota Republican in history to be elected to three U.S. Senate terms. He succeeded Hubert Humphrey in 1978, and retired in 1995.
The National Institute of Health Policy (NIHP) is a membership organization composed of health-care industry leaders throughout the Upper Midwest, and provides a neutral forum for regional health care institutions to work collaboratively to shape health care both locally and nationally.
The health care revolution will require physicians to communicate with their patients, and make them part of the decision-making process. It will require leadership, moving from the very local levels to the White House. The approach has to be consistent in walk-in clinics and hospitals around the nation; licensing of health care professionals and medical insurers has to adhere to a national standard, he said.
The U.S. is in this current economic mess, which includes a shortfall of medical services for millions, because of failed leadership. Those who are getting medical attention are not getting good value for their costs, which Durenberger termed “excessive.”
President Barack Obama is challenging national providers to get better medical coverage by reducing costs, he said.
“Too many (people) in the health-care industry are in denial (and do not) face their part of the problem,” Durenberger said. “As successful business people know, consumers compete for value...and there are too many opportunities to bring costs down.”
But Americans can’t find medical value for a variety of reasons: income expectations by medical professionals and insurers, the great cost of attending medical school, because patients are not given the necessary information to make financially and medically sound choices, and, finally, because patients have not yet learned to question physicians’ decisions, he said.
The days when people believed “doctor knows best” are gone, he said. The doctor-patient relationship must change.
Americans could save 50 percent of costs associated with chronic illnesses if health professionals were paid to help prevent conditions, he said.
However, before the national dialogue proceeds, there is a critical need to take politics out of any American health-care reform plan, he said.
Republicans and Democrats have to speak to each other to make this happen and people at every local level need to get involved. Policies should not be left in the hands of the people sent to Washington, D.C., or their lawyers.
Forum Club members laughed when Durenberger suggested that they may have to rub shoulders with, and learn from, liberals and other “people who are different from us,” he said, and laughed. Naples is largely Republican.
He challenged Naples leaders to make those changes “from the bottom up” to contribute to what would ultimately be the American Health Care System.
After Durenberger’s speech, retired accountant and financial adviser John Cook cautiously acknowledged that the concepts are interesting, and in theory, can be financially accomplished.
Retired Ohio auto dealer Milt Taylor was inspired by Durenberger.
“It was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard at the Forum Club,” said Taylor, who is not a member but has been a guest at least six times.
Before Durenberger’s speech, longtime pal L. Pat Franciosi said the former senator is the real deal.
“We have been friends for almost 40 years,” she said. “He has that spirit of caring. He knows how to be a good friend.”
Whenever she called, and mentioned there was a problem, Durenberger’s first words were “‘What can I do to help?’” Franciosi said.