Right now, there are no good incentives for this to happen for medicine covered by insurance. But if prices were driven down by transparency and technological development aimed at affordability, then the fact that U.S. medicine is state of the art and technology rich could remain a focus of great pride instead of criticism. Though not often said these days, American medicine is still the best in the world, driven by major investments in medical research and incredible innovation. (As the old saw goes, "Everywhere else in the world death is inevitable, but in America it's only an option.")
Whether it is in the emergency room or an intensive care unit or on the general medical floor, American patients have readier access than do patients elsewhere to specialists who use more technology (a good thing only if it's used properly, of course). An American patient with a heart attack is more likely to have his coronaries fixed by surgery or angioplasty and risky heart rhythms managed with a pacemaker and internal defibrillator. This kind of care is not reserved for the Clintons or the Cheneys but is there for all patients, with or without insurance. And contrary to what is often believed, the United States has long been prevention oriented, spending four times what other nations do on warding off disease and detecting it early. America has among the lowest rates of smoking and alcohol abuse. And our efforts to aggressively screen for cancer have resulted in among the best cancer survival rates in the world. For breast cancer, we're No. 1.
Whether for prevention or therapy, it's inbred here that doctors do whatever is needed to save a life. They are trained not to give up, within reason, and not to say categorically that this man is too old or this woman too feeble to justify the cost of care. We recognize that circumstances differ, and such decisions are made up close and personal and not as a matter of state.
We have our problems, too. And that some Americans are lacking affordable health insurance is one of them that must be addressed. Bringing down, not just slowing down, bloated healthcare prices is part of that solution. It would be historic, for every family in America.