This week's local science event pick focuses on health care reform.A recent PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer opened with this quote from President Barack Obama: "There are examples of how we can make the entire health care system more efficient. ...What works? The Mayo Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic. Geisinger. Kaiser Permanente. There are health systems around the country that actually have costs that are as much as 20 percent or 30 percent lower than the national average and have higher quality. What is it that they are doing differently from other systems?"
The idea for Kaiser was developed by Dr. Sidney Garfield way back in 1933. He established a prepayment health plan for 5000 workers building the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the Mojave Desert. Workers paid about a nickel a day to receive full medical care from Dr. Garfield. He emphasized prevention and early treatment to prevent more serious problems later.
Fast forward to today, the same issues of prevention to keep down costs are still being discussed today. Certainly, HMOs are not without criticism, but it is certainly a compelling story to trace the development of the modern system from a place of preventative care. Plus, it will be a relief to have a healthcare discussion without all the yelling.
Tom Debley is the author of The Story of Dr. Sidney R. Garfield: The Visionary Who Turned Sick Care into Health Care, the theme of his talk will be "The Long Quest for Health Care Reform: A Bay Area Doctor's Belief in Health Care as a Right." He will trace the story of Dr. Garfield's life because so much less is known about him than his co-founder, Henry J. Kaiser.