Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for secretary-designate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Daschle will be in charge of any legislative tune-up that's presented to our next president. Like the auto industry, health care needs a long-term government fix to patch the leaks and brilliant cracks caused by new health care technology, services, research and specialization.
Let's do the math. If government invests $700 billion, which just happens to be last year's annual HHS budget, then our country should be able to improve tried and true health care performers, like Medicare and Medicaid.
Government also needs a long-term investment solution. Anything is better than nothing, and investment will set the tone for what's ahead. It's like when a child banks a small amount of change week after week, and somehow the total just seems to grow.
We need a fund like that for health care. It's just too bad that systems like Medicare and Medicaid make some newcomers to Congress cringe. No doubt they're complex. But unfortunately, these politicians want to spend tax dollars on "new programs" targeted at old problems in order to hype their performance for the next election.
Honestly, I'd rather have my tax dollars invested in Medicare and Medicaid, strong and tested systems, which have safeguards in place to protect against fraud and waste.
Why not upgrade Medicaid reimbursement schedules to match today's health care economics? Why not include the unemployed and all who want health care and cannot afford it under this system? That's a pretty good social umbrella, I think.
I continue to like the idea of private insurance, simply because we live in a capitalistic society and I believe it's the underpinning of choice among providers. But I don't like the strongholds private insurers place on physicians, and their red tape is horrible to cut through.
During the next four years, I hope that I don't have to shop too much for health care insurers. I can't imagine getting an annual stipend and then left with the burden of "shopping" for a health insurer.
Moreover, I can't stand too many more duck-quacking commercials and infomercials to which I'm currently exposed. Think of all the diabetic supply commercials and health insurance ads we're subjected to now!
Gosh forbid that I have to watch one more sexually explicit drug commercial with two people in a bathtub - all for the sake of pharmaceutical profit. (Wake up drug companies: Get that stuff off the TV. Research shows they're not working how you expected).
Simply, I'd hope to see current financial systems made stronger, privacy respected, medications made affordable, and private insurers taking a hit on profits.
Daschle, who was quoted on Politico.com said, "The myth in our country has long been that we have the best health care system in the world we have islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity."
Improving on mediocrity will mean equal access and reimbursement structures that reflect the future of health care, including organ transplant, bionics, research, affordable medications and long-term and rural health care.
The precision and expertise demanded by the public from the health care industry will not come without a cost.
Community hospitals must be able to depend on updated reimbursement schedules and not on the generosity of donors and short-term grants to provide for outreach clinics and services that should be a norm.
Community hospitals and physicians should be rewarded and given the opportunity to navigate the waters between these "islands of excellence," planning for the needs of their constituents.
A break out of nursing care charges from the general hospital bill would be a good start to recognize the impact that nursing has on the 24-hour care, staffing and future of the health care industry in America.
Foremost, health care providers need to be prepared financially for homeland emergencies and disasters. We must be at our best when people are at their worst, physically and emotionally.
I recall 9/11, and today I see the struggles of Israel and Palestine, where access to health care is not available, as is the case in many countries where food, medicines and health care are not available.
As Daschle and his co-pilot Jeanne Lambrew, the deputy director of the White House's reform office, prepare for an overhaul in health care, let's keep our eye on the ball and the efficiency at which change is made.
Linda Kay Goodwin, RN, BSN, MBA, is a nationally award-winning columnist and recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Media Award for Excellence in the presentation of Health Care Information to the Public. She is employed by West Virginia University Medical Center.