April 21, 2009

Campuses Come Together to Unpack Healthcare Issues

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Some of the most contended issues in the nation — concepts of healthcare, medical care access and coverage — were debated yesterday evening in Goldwin Smith Hall at an interactive discussion led by Dr. Arthur Garson, executive vice president and provost of the University of Virginia.
Garson previously served as the dean of UVA’s School of Medicine. A cardiologist and author of Health Care Half Truths: Too Many Myths, Not Enough Reality, Garson dissected many “myths” surrounding the institution of healthcare providers.
The event was sponsored by President David Skorton and the Cornell Undergraduate Health Cooperative, an umbrella organization comprised of 12 health-oriented student groups. CUHC organized the “Sick in America” symposium this week with the aim of virtually, if not physically, bringing Cornell’s Ithaca and NYC campuses together, according to Nicky Chopra ’09, co-president and founder of the cooperative.
At last evening’s kickoff event, which was attended by about 130 people, Skorton highlighted the necessity to discuss healthcare policies in a nation enthralled by economic turmoil. He stressed that the topic is of great importance to Cornell as an employer. In addition, Skorton said that the symposium fulfills one of the University’s land grant obligations “to work to help the country dig itself out from the dilemma of public healthcare delivery.”
Garson started his lecture by contrasting healthcare and medical care with two claims: “American medical care is second-rate compared to other nations” and “American healthcare is second-rate compared to other nations.” He then asked the audience to vote for or against the statements above. Although the majority of attendees agreed that both statements were true, many did not make the distinction between healthcare and medical care. After Garson showed examples to illustrate the difference, members of the audience defined healthcare as a body that oversees the institution of medicine and medical care as the process of treating hospital patients.

[img_assist|nid=37069|title=Karate Chop|desc=Dr. Arthur Garson speaks at the kick-off event for the Sick in America symposium in Goldwin Smith HEC Auditorium yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Garson explained that the two concepts were different, but interrelated. Although there is a complex interaction between healthcare and medical care, he warned that correlation does not equal causation.
Garson went on to say that one-third of the nation’s $2.4 trillion healthcare budget is flushed down the drain as a result of excessive billing costs and unnecessary advertisements.
Doctors are also are unable to escape blame. The practice of defensive medicine — running extraneous number of tests for fear of being sued for medical malpractice — is directly related to the upsurge of healthcare costs, suggested a member of the audience. However, “it is very difficult to tell whether someone is practicing defensive medicine or not,” Garson argued. In other words, it is hard to tell from a patient’s medical chart whether her doctor ordered a test to avoid being sued or to make extra money by using a new diagnostic machine.
Still, doctors do not constitute the entire problem, another member of the audience said. At times, patients make numerous demands that their doctors feel obligated to serve.
Moreover, Garson pointed out that medical coverage and medical access are not interchangeable. With the exception of emergencies, one needs medical coverage — or insurance — to get medical access.
While seeking preventative care does not necessarily help to save money, Garson encouraged the audience to seek it, as it might help in early detection of otherwise chronic diseases. Although the majority of people who seek preventative care do not need it, all are encouraged to seek it until there’s an accurate genetic testing available in the market to predict an individual’s susceptibility to certain diseases.
Tom Dragon ’12 attended the conference and commended the speaker’s efforts to engage the audience throughout the lecture. Dragon described the evening as “an eye-opener,” adding that he attended the event because he is “interested in healthcare issues in America,” specifically about the issues with medical insurance and affordable healthcare. As a student from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Dragon emphasized that healthcare inefficiencies is an issue that affect everyone regardless of their career aspirations.