Health care needs to change from a reactive, treatment-based system to one designed to prevent diseases, Bloomberg News Managing Editor Michael Waldholz said Wednesday at a Pierson College Master’s Tea.
Waldholz, the managing editor for global health, science and environment, spoke to an audience of approximately 25 about how polarized politics in the United States has stood in the way of health care reform becoming a reality.
“The kind of reform that needs to happen in the U.S. will never happen until something changes in the way we’re built as a society,” Waldholz said. “We’re left in a situation where I don’t believe that true health care reform is going to happen.”
Part of the problem, he explained, is that the health care issue has not been represented clearly to the American public. The health care reform bill — which would have been the first major overhaul of the American health care system since Medicare in 1965 — is so complicated that it could not be sold to the American public. Even though he covered health care for many years at The Wall Street Journal, Waldholz said he could have gone on for two hours about what he did not know about the bill.
Waldholz said he also blamed most media outlets for confusing the public about the health care reform debate.
“It is not our job to advertise or promote or explain this issue to the American people, but it has been left to us to do it,” Waldholz said. “[But] we don’t have the skills to explain the complexity of the issue in a way that’s more than ‘who’s winning.’ ”
The convoluted portrayal of health care reform has left Americans tremendously anxious and angry, and these emotions have been directed to the people in charge, Waldholz said. Cultural factors such as democracy and capitalism have also stood in the way of the health care reform bill, he added.
Capitalism is also an obstacle to the passage of the reform bill, Waldholz said. The “medical-industrial complex,” which includes hospitals, doctors and insurance companies, exists to treat disease, he said, not to prevent it. Because health care has become much more profitable in the last 30 years due to the growth of the health insurance industry, there is no real incentive for companies to support the shift from disease treatment to disease prevention — a change the reform bill was supposed to start, Waldholz added.
“If President [Barack Obama] can get anything through Congress, it will have been an act of courage because it will provide a foundation for some really valuable changes,” Waldholz said.
Marti Metilla, the wife of a Yale staff member, said the talk left her as depressed as before about health care reform.
Joe Satran ’11 said he thought the talk encouraged people to support health care reform.
“[It] challenged the people in the room to think creatively about health care and not just accept the current situation,” Satran said.
The Tea was sponsored by both Pierson College and the Poynter Fellowship, a program that invites prominent journalists to speak at the University.