Healthcare Reform: A Look At The Kaiser Permanente Model

2708 words - 11 pages

It is terrifying to discover that you have terminal cancer. What is more terrifying is being left uninsured. This is what happened to one Californian. He lost his job due to recession cuts and tried to get onto his wife’s insurance coverage. However, she too lost her job and insurance. So now this man is left at home writing in pain because he cannot access pain killers. With his economic background, it is difficult to access federal coverage. There are problems like this occurring every day. I believe that we need to improve not only the amount of people covered by health insurance, but the quality as well. To illustrate this, I look to Kaiser Permanente, who I have both volunteered and been a patient with, for the model of healthcare reform.
Doctor Sidney Garfield and Henry Kaiser’s partnership that goes all the way back to the 1930’s became a revolutionary network of healthcare providers working with the insurance company. Kaiser Permanente’s formative years were amidst the Great Depression and Dr. Garfield was charged with task of supplying medical care to thousands of Los Angeles Aqueduct workers. Being the Depression, financing was very difficult so Dr. Garfield simply charged 5 cents a day for each employee to the insurance company of the contractor. This was the essential birth of prepayment in the health insurance system, but that alone was not enough. Due to the potential patient load, Dr. Garfield focused upon preventative safety measures rather than simply reactionary care. This fundamental philosophy of innovation and the focus on health as opposed to mending has been the hallmark of modern Kaiser Permanente. The advertising campaign and slogan “Live Well and Thrive” encourages this very philosophy as it encourages people to reinvest in themselves just as Kaiser Permanente’s business model allows them to reinvest 94% of their operating costs. Philosophically and financially, Kaiser Permanente does exactly what our healthcare system should strive for, but we cannot fix the entire system in one fell swoop.
First and foremost, we must have clear goals for our country’s future in healthcare. We need to make strides toward nationalized healthcare as every country that has gone to a national system has never gone back. Looking at our GDP in comparison to other countries that have nationalized healthcare can paint a fairly clear picture of this. The figures of percent of GDP on healthcare expenditure presented by documentary film correspondent on healthcare issues and reporter, Thomas R. Reid, in his book The Healing of America (2005) are as follows: USA 15.3%, Switzerland 11.6%, France 11.1%, Canada 9.8%, Sweden 9.1%, UK 8.3%, and Taiwan 6.2%. In all of these countries (aside from the United States) there is some form of nationalized healthcare. Bear in mind that these figures are from 2005 and more recent figures featured in a Time blog from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “show that healthcare...

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