Health care is complex, and so must be any reform, a leading researcher told a Samford University audience Friday, May 14.
Even though the U.S. spends much more than other countries on health care for individuals, the higher spending is not associated with better quality, said Joshua S. Benner, research director, Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
“The more we spend on people, the worse their health is. That’s the fundamental problem,” he said, adding that health care reform is necessary because current spending growth is simply unsustainable.
The U.S. has spent a lot of money on health care at the same time encountering a tremendous deficit in the economy, he said, noting that there is an uneven division of spending among states and some 46 million Americans are uninsured.
In his work at Brookings, Benner, a pharmacist, focuses on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of medical product research and development, regulatory approval and post-market evaluation.
He was at Samford to give the commencement address for 121 graduates of Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy earlier in the day.
In his afternoon lecture, Benner detailed four pillars of reform that resulted when Brookings convened experts in health policy and economics to develop a consensus around feasible, concrete steps to slow spending growth and improve care quality.
The pillars are: building the necessary foundation for effective reform, reforming payments to create accountability for higher-value care, improving health insurance markets and supporting better individual choices.
The fourth pillar, he said, involves such efforts as targeting obesity reduction, promoting wellness and prevention to reduce costs, and supporting patient preferences for palliative care so that less money is spent in the final stages of life. The latter, he said, may involve better communication between patients and family members.
Proper health care reform, he suggests, calls for some combination of all four pillars. “Each is important, but doing one makes it possible to do the others,” said Benner who holds a doctor of pharmacy degree from Drake University and master’s and doctorate degrees in health policy and management from Harvard University School of Public Health. His wife, Kris, is a 1996 Samford pharmacy graduate.
“This bill won’t fix healthcare, but it will give us the answers that we need,” Benner said of the recent legislation passed by Congress.. “Later, there must be a significant round of health care legislation to act on what is learned.”
As key healthcare providers, pharmacists, he said, must find a way “to keep patients healthy, make sick patients better, and prove it.”
His audience included Samford pharmacy faculty and staff, alumni and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry.