Debate: Consumer-Driven Health Care
You won’t hear many health experts claim that the American healthcare system is functioning perfectly in terms of core considerations such as cost, access, and quality. The question that arises with the advent of any new policy approach seeking to improve the system is obvious: Does the change represent a step forward or backward? Professors Kristin Madison, of Penn, and Peter Jacobson, of the University of Michigan, take up this question in regard to the latest innovation in health care policy—consumer-directed healthcare (CDHC).
Professor Madison argues that while CDHC is not a panacea, “[e]ven if its shortcomings prevent its full diffusion through the American health care system, CDHC will still . . . help to establish a foundation for future reforms in health care finance and delivery, [and] has the potential to improve the health care system in the long run.” Professor Jacobson’s response? “CDHC is a direct attack on the idea that health care differs from other market commodities because of its moral aspirations . . . . For those who believe that equity should be a fundamental attribute of health care delivery, CDHC represents a huge step backwards.” Nonetheless, Professor Madison is convinced that CDHC will be a lightning rod that stirs the American health care system out of its complacency and “forces us to confront the tradeoffs inherent in any health care system in a resource-constrained world.“ Professor Jacobson is not content to wait and see how the American public reacts to CDHC: “If the policy focus is on CDHC, equity will be subordinated. If universal coverage dominates, CDHC proponents are probably right that cost and quality issues will be subordinate. For me, it’s an easy choice—helping those without insurance to have a minimal acceptable level of care.”