Capitalist. Socialist. Impatient. Curious. Dissatisfied. Forward-thinking. Compassionate. Innovative. Competitive. Extremist. Centrist. Risk tolerant. Risk adverse. Does one or some of these terms describe an aspect of your central core? For many of us in the Massachusetts health care system — whether it be care delivery, financing or policy — these personal and professional attributes may serve as the fuel driving change; and in many cases change for the better.
The Massachusetts health care system, which has undergone and continues to experience change, is admired by the country and the world. Of course, here at home, it's easy to find blogs, essays, conferences, editorials, and other sources that focus on what's broken instead of what's working. And, yes, I've been a contributor to that debate. Part of it may be that we're cranky New Englanders. But I also think we have an intolerance of mediocrity and a passion for pushing the policy envelope — attributes that have propelled our health care system forward.
For many of us, this is the time of year to look back at our achievements over the prior 12 months and assess our performance relative to the plans we made when the year was young. It's an important exercise for many reasons, the most important of which may be that we get to take time out from fixing, creating and improving to celebrate our successes. It's something that we don't do often enough in this competitive culture.
A recent trip to India has given me even more time
and distance to pause and appreciate what is happening here at home. In a dichotomy that exists in many other countries, India has sparkling, impressive health care facilities surrounded by people who will never set foot inside. These people are not welcome because they cannot pay for their care. And they are definitely not part of the hospitals' business plans, which are more focused on attracting medical tourism than providing services to someone suffering from polio two blocks away.
So, we can all agree that our state's and our country's health care systems are not perfect. But one way or another, we in Massachusetts pretty much care for anyone who walks through a hospital door. We may — and do — disagree about how to do it, who should pay, whether we can do it more efficiently. But from across the globe, those seem like mere details.
I'm glad to be part of the Massachusetts solution as we enter 2009.
Eric H. Schultz is President and CEO of Fallon Community Health Plan.
This program aired on December 26, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.