The Commonwealth Fund, How Will Comprehensive Reform Improve Health Care for Americans?, Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2009 supplement.
Serious flaws in the U.S. health care system affect every sector of society. Millions of Americans are unable to afford health care coverage, leaving them and their families without access to health care when they need it. Even people who have insurance often struggle to pay off large medical debts incurred because their policies did not provide adequate protection. The ever-increasing costs of medical care and insurance are also straining government budgets, squeezing businesses—particularly small employers—and reducing employment.
With the nation's economy in recession, the need for comprehensive health reform is more urgent than ever. Both houses of Congress are considering proposals that would achieve near-universal coverage through a combination of payment and system reforms. But with an estimated 10-year price tag of $1 trillion, and disagreements about how best to structure a new U.S. health care system, the debate is far from over. What benefits would comprehensive reform bring to American families and businesses? Would such reform reduce health care spending? Would reform lead to a healthier America?
The work of the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System indicates that expanding access to health insurance coverage is the single most important step the nation can take to move toward a better health care system. In its 2009 report, The Path to a High Performance U.S. Health System, the Commission describes a package of comprehensive, integrated reforms to make health care coverage accessible to everyone while bending the curve of rising health care costs.
This report draws largely on the Commission’s work, as well as other research, to provide journalists and others with an evidence-based context for understanding how both lack of coverage and spiraling health care costs directly affect American families and businesses, and how comprehensive health reform can address these problems. While reforming health care will not be easy, the Commission’s work suggests that allowing the system to continue on its current path will result in loss of coverage for millions more Americans and unrestrained increases in health care spending.