By Brian E. Hill, M.D.
If physicians treated symptoms, they would never cure. Prescribing a cough suppressant to a patient with an intractable cough without searching for an underlying cause, for example, is obviously foolhardy. If cancer were present, it would inevitably progress and take that patient’s life. Cure comes through recognizing symptoms and parsing them to diagnose and treat disease. Problem-solving in health policy should employ the same approach.
The ideological banter surrounding health care reform has mistakenly focused on symptoms, however, missing the disease that inhibits the system’s ability to provide readily accessible, high-quality, cost-effective health care. Unsustainable costs and access problems do exist, but these are merely symptoms of the underlying disease.
Other symptoms are readily apparent.…