SEATTLE--All of the government manipulations of the US health-care system will have little impact on the more potent forces--demographic, social, scientific, cultural, moral, and legal--that shape the American way of health and fuel its cost, says former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
Mr. Califano, who is currently president of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, is a strong believer in "radical surgery" for the way we approach health, life, and death in America.
This radical surgery cannot be accomplished through legislation, he believes, but rather through changes in our basic thinking about health and individual responsibility.
The Lesson of 1994
The lesson of 1994, when President Clinton's administration brought forth its "preposterously bureaucratic" health care plan, he said, is that no single law can revamp the entire health-care system. Instead, he stressed, reform is a perpetual process, and achieving universal coverage is a long-term proposition.
Speaking at the presidential symposium held during the American Society of Hematology meeting, Mr. Califano described our current system as providing "sick care" rather than "health care," ie, programs that foster healthy lifestyles.
Although he praised the accomplishments of America's research community, he looks with dismay on how new breakthroughs are sometimes perceived by consumers.
"We see them not as palliatives to be used when we become sick despite our best efforts to stay healthy but, rather, as a means to allow further overindulgence, inactivity, and abuse of mind and body," he said. "If Moses were an American in the 1990s, the tablets he would bring down from the mountain would be Prozac and aspirin(Drug information on aspirin), not a set of commandments to guide our conduct."