Panel talks healthcare

Yale’s Women Faculty Forum hosted a panel Wednesday evening about the obstacles in obtaining healthcare in the twenty-first century. Professors from both Yale and Columbia Universities spoke to a Rosenfeld Hall audience made up of mostly other faculty members about the complexities of domestic and global health care.

Although the forum — “How Health Works Out: Healthcare Challenges throughout the Lifecycle” — was sponsored by WFF, very little of the professors’ lectures was geared toward how issues of healthcare affect women in particular. Director of Programs and Projects Cindy Tobery said that while the goals of the WFF are to make academia a place where women can better balance work and personal lives, this year’s discussion focused on more universal aspects of healthcare.

Sherry Glied ’82, professor and chair of the department of health policy and management at Columbia, said while everyone in the general population is receiving better healthcare now than they were a few decades ago, there is an increasing gap in the level of healthcare different people receive.

“I want to discuss the inequalities, or disparities, that exist in the world of healthcare today, and what can be done about them,” Glied said.

Glied said that she does not think that the U.S. healthcare system is facing any sort of crisis.

“We could keep on bumbling along like we have been doing for the past 70 years for another 70 years,” she said.

Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker spoke about the political and economic ramifications of the current healthcare system. Most Americans spend at least 10 percent of their incomes on healthcare, and half of all bankruptcies are caused by health costs, he said.

“Healthcare is the epicenter of economic insecurity in America,” he said.

Hacker said many more medically uninsured people in America than in any other developed country, in part because the majority of people in the United States rely on private insurance through their work rather than any sort of government healthcare plan.

“The U.S. insures a lot fewer people, which leads to the conclusion that there is something perversely wrong with the American [healthcare] system,” he said.

The last speaker, professor of epidemiology and public health Jennifer Ruger, expanded the discussion, which had focused primarily on domestic healthcare, by talking about issues of global healthcare.

“A good place to start is getting people to care about health and about healthcare,” Ruger said.

All three speakers stressed the link between education and healthcare. Glied said individuals who are educated tend to earn more money and thus have access to better healthcare, but also tend to approach the world in a more critical way. She said that this different worldview promotes healthier lifestyles because educated people will question their doctors more or seek out second opinions from other physicians.

Glied said she was so impressed by the goals of the WFF that she plans to propose a similar program at Columbia.

“I think it is important to bring women faculty together to talk about issues that are important to women faculty, while at the same time enriching scholarship,” she said.

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