COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Donna Shalala, the former Health and Human Services secretary for the Clinton administration, spoke to health care leaders from all over the state at the Ohio State University’s inaugural Community Engagement Conference last week. The two-day conference focused on focused on partnerships, health, wellness and the politics of health care.
“Well, it’s a very fragmented system, and we created it that way through economic incentives,” Shalala said.
Shalala told the audience that young doctors are lured away from family medicine practices by the high pay that comes with becoming a specialist. Seeing a specialist is expensive, adding to the rising cost of health care in the United States, along with skyrocketing pharmaceutical costs and pricy medical advances.
“As a result, we spend a lot more than any country in the world,” Shalala explained. “We want [specialists] because we want them to push the field, but when it comes to an individual’s care, we are not coordinating it as well as we should.”
Shalala said the rising cost of health care in America is caused by the way the financial aspect of health care is organized and who the stakeholders are that profit from the fragmentation.
Those stakeholders put immense pressure on the people who could make changes to the health care system. They are the people who are going to lobbyists and working to influence Congress.
“Health care is a big business in this country. It creates a lot of jobs,” she said. “So, if you want to squeeze it in one part, some people are going to lose their jobs and it’s not just the executives. It’s good people that get up every day and take care of their families.”
Shalala supports OSU’s effort to connect with community partners to find innovative ways to work for health and wellness here in Ohio.
“Some of what’s going on in Washington is scary,” she said.
Shalala said she is particularly disturbed by what seems like a lack of knowledge about measures and policies that will help people.
“If you don’t understand people’s lives, you can’t make public policy,” she said.