Inertia in Healthcare Is Sometimes a Good Thing

Posted on July 21, 2009 I Written By

President Barack Obama is defending his relentless campaign for a health care bill before Congress’s August recess, saying “the default in Washington is inaction and inertia.”

Mr. Obama, there is a good reason for inertia. It protects complex systems which have evolved over time from dramatic change which can be very disruptive and threaten the very survival of the system. Inertia moderates change so that change can be accomplished slowly and successfully. Inertia is sometimes a good thing. In the case of healthcare reform, this inertia might save our healthcare system.

Improving our healthcare system is an important project. This cannot be done in 3 months by politicians and bureaucrats who are not expert or experienced in the ways of healthcare. The system must evolve slowly, thoughtfully and carefully.

The goal should NOT be universal coverage at the expense of everything else! Universal coverage is a worthy goal, but there are other things which are more important like quality of care, cost of care, ability to access care, innovation and properly aligned incentives. Universal coverage puts EVERYTHING else at risk and therefore we need to pause, take a deep breath and figure out how we are going to improve our health system without ruining it and putting our whole economy at risk.

The experiment in Massachusetts has been a disaster. It has achieved the goal of universal coverage but the cost of care has gone up and access to care is terrible (not enough providers). Doctors are miserable, not making any money and they are leaving the state. Let’s look very closely at Massachusetts before we duplicate this disaster at the national level!