Remember the story of Judah and the Maccabees, and how they reclaimed the holy temple with the help of a miracle; when one day's worth of oil burned for eight days.
Unfortunately, the current health reforms are shaping up the same way; namely, it will take an absolute miracle for the government to succeed in extending the current "oil" of health insurance to cover 30 million or 40 million more people.
Especially when you consider the doctor and nurse shortage - that 65 million people live in Health Professional Shortage Areas. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that we will be 150,000 doctors short by 2025 if we have health reform.
The doctors we do have will be overburdened with more patients with lower reimbursements and we will have less time to see them. Many more will drop out, decreasing the value of extending insurance to millions more people. 50 percent of practicing doctors already don"t take Medicaid, and according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, in 2008, 28 percent of Medicare patients looking for a new primary care physician weren't able to find one. Soon it will take an absolute miracle for a patient to receive top quality care.
My holiday wish is for more doctors, more nurses, and less insurance, rather than more insurance.
It will certainly be a miracle if Medicare can be expanded to cover millions more between 55 and 65 without transforming it to a highly restricted low-paying system that no one can recognize. Speaking of that kind of system, it already has a name - Medicaid. It will also be a miracle of Chanukah-like proportions if Medicaid can somehow be extended to 10 million more people without bankrupting states or the hospitals who will see their payments cut further by these suffering states. Even Senator Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) plan of creating 2,000 more residency spots for primary care docs seems like a prayer when you consider that these residents still won't have a built-in loan forgiveness plan or high paying jobs when they graduate. It will be a miracle if these spots are filled.
High deductible high co-pay insurance may be unpopular, but it has a built in disincentive for overuse. This is practical, not a miracle.Health care for all means more caregivers not more insurance. This too is a practical solution, not a miracle.
But if Congress doesn't start to take the growing doctor and nurse shortage more seriously, we may all soon be hoping for a miracle whenever we get sick.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of a new ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com
Marc Siegel MD is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a medical analyst and reporter for Fox News since 2008. His upcoming book concerns a mysterious viral outbreak.