Over the last several months, the contentious healthcare debate has prompted many questions – some political, some ethical and some economic. Still, they remain unsettled. And until the debate among politicians is resolved, the ultimate impact of reform on the country will be unclear and questions will persist unanswered.
This uncertainty is just as puzzling for healthcare professionals as it is for healthcare consumers. Yet, in the face of this changing climate, where many aspects of the overhaul could have a large impact on physicians, UC Davis pre-med undergrads, Adam Bitticks, Kamran Mahramzadeh and Naficeh Dastgheyb, remain unaffected by the discourse, resolute with an unwavering passion in their continued pursuit for a medical career – regardless of the questions, regardless of the solutions to the questions and regardless of the impact of the solutions.
They welcome change.
“I want to pursue medicine to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Bitticks, a senior neurobiology, physiology and behavior major. “The debate, and the effort for reform, hasn’t impacted my desire in the slightest. The point of healthcare has been lost and change seems necessary.“
Historically, the American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians and medical students in the country, has been strongly opposed to a health system reform. Presently, though, they are in favor of it. The endorsement speaks to the importance of the debate and the issues at hand.
The debate for reform is good for our nation, wrote Mahramzadeh, a senior NPB major, in an e-mail interview.
“The fact that the debate is making headlines across the nation shows how important it actually is,” he said.
Currently, 47 million citizens go without health insurance every year, according to the latest national census data. As a nation, Americans spend an average of $7,026 per capita on health expenditure, which is the most expensive medical cost in the world, according to the California HealthCare Foundation. Fourteen percent of Americans lack insurance – 80 percent of whom are workers, or live in families with workers, according to Jonathan Oberlander’s “The U.S. Health Care System.”
“Many people who have jobs, who are sincerely contributing to our society, cannot afford or do not have access to health insurance,” said Dastgheyb, a sophomore NPB major. “It’s just ridiculous. It needs to change.”
The Obama administration asserts that it’s possible to make healthcare cheaper and universally available without reduced quality. This assertion is due, in part, to studies like the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. These studies show how costs of treatment can vary widely between states, counties and hospitals, without any evident distinction in quality and health outcome.
It seems logical, even simple, in theory. But the effort for universal healthcare availability has faced, and still faces, many political obstacles. These obstacles will impact physicians to a greater or lesser degree depending on the plan passed.
Put simply, all proposed plans for reform are structured around four main points – regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition – said Paul Krugman of The New York Times. And, if reform is successful, it will be due to the effective integration of these parts.
Appropriately, all involved parties in the effort for reform have their own perspectives and goals.
Leslie R. Kane, of WebMD.com, in the article, “How Healthcare Reform Could Affect Physicians,” points out that doctors are concerned with, but not limited to, the issues surrounding adequate reimbursement for services, the role of government in healthcare administration, extra taxes they may have to pay for reform despite their tremendous student loans and malpractice reform.
“There are issues and questions with any profession, in any industry, especially now,” Dastgheyb said. “I want to pursue a career in medicine because I’m passionate about it. That’s all that should matter, and that’s all that does.“
Currently the House and Senate are reviewing over 1,000 pages of proposals concerned with options to deal with a public option plan, individual mandates for insurance and the cost of care. Meanwhile Bitticks, Mahramzadeh and Dastgheyb will continue to follow their paths in pursuit of medicine, unconcerned with the current issues in politics, most concerned with a passion to help society through a career in healthcare.
The outcome is irrelevant, Mahramzadeh said. “I am still interested.“
Dastgheyb agreed, noting the unimportance of a physician’s paycheck.
“Patients shouldn’t be seen as dollar signs,” Dastgheyb said. “That’s not what being a doctor is all about.“
Likewise, Bitticks affirmed the same sentiment.
“The goal of a medical professional is to help people,” Bitticks said. “And I think we have gone away from that. But however we get back to it, the better off we will be.“
DAVID LAVINE can be reached at email@example.com.