Exploring Human Potential

A “CODE BLUE” Moment – Crisis In A Broken Health Care System.

Posted on | March 12, 2020 | 2 Comments

Visiting Nursing Home family member quarantined in Seattle area.

Mike Magee

In the opening pages of “CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex”, I wrote:

 “When Donald Trump expressed his cluelessness—’nobody knew that health care could be so complicated’—before a meeting of state governors in February 2017, he was exposing a pattern of both arrogance and ignorance that is now on full display.

Most Americans awaken today forced to acknowledge the absurdity of our convoluted system of third-party payers, and the pretzel positions our politicians weave in and out of as they try to justify it, reform it, then un-reform it. Congressional loyalists continue to find solace in telling themselves, “Well, we still have the best health care in the world.”

In point of fact, we’re not even close to having the best health care in the world. As legendary Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt prophetically remarked two years prior to COVID-19, “At international health care conferences, arguing that a certain proposed policy would drive some country’s system closer to the U.S. model usually is the kiss of death.”

It is at times of crises like these that system weaknesses expose themselves. The inability to swiftly and efficiently test a population for COVID-19, share those results, and rationally plan a swift, coordinated, and effective response is a reflection of the gross inadequacies of our health care system. So is a leaky and disjointed supply system that can’t manage demand for cue tips, let alone ventilators.

In a review of CODE BLUE last year, John Rother, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care wrote, “Code Blue will make you mad, but it will also make you better informed and better able to understand what we need to do as a country to fix it. I can’t think of a more persuasive book on the need for change.”

The need for change that John forecasted not only included matters of justice, planning, and equitable distribution of health care resources, but also the capacity to respond to a global public health event of the magnitude of COVID-19.

How broken must a system be when our nation can’t keep up with nations like South Korea and Italy in testing for the virus? What does our “patchwork response”, variable across states and communities, lacking any private-public planning and coordination, and absent clarity on pricing, access, eligibility and prioritization, and raft with confusion even on what protections are necessary for health care workers collecting samples, tell us about our need for a fundamental restructuring of our health care system?

God Bless Anthony Fauci, but is our system so fragile that the fate of Americans rests on a single individual having the temerity to speak truth to power in the face of executive incompetence? And how are we to reconcile a Presidential veto on testing kits months ago. And the solution now? The President turns to his son-in-law’s family for advise on what to do next.

A half-century of systematic underfunding of public health, planning and prevention in deference to entrepreneurial scientists in pursuit of profit and patents over patients and families, ends here – in crisis. We will survive this “Code Blue” calamity, but we need to assure through new leadership and deliberate action that it will never happen again.

For now:

  1. Self-isolate the family.
  2. Test if you can.
  3. Trust and believe in each other.
  4. Ignore Trump and Pence. Trust your state leaders for now.
  5. Vote with your head, not your heart (or your gut), in the next cycle.


2 Responses to “A “CODE BLUE” Moment – Crisis In A Broken Health Care System.”

  1. Gregory Etchason
    March 12th, 2020 @ 1:19 pm

    Like everything else in the US all human activity is first about making money. Anything after that is purely incidental. We will get Single Universal Healthcare when the Fortune 500 decide it will be benefit their bottom line. It might actually come sooner than later. As the need for labor declines overtime, there won’t be any incentive to offer insurance to trap a smaller workforce.

  2. Mike Magee
    March 17th, 2020 @ 3:49 pm

    Thanks, Gregory. As you suggest, profiteering is rampant. There is a limit to spending, and some feel at 1/5 our GDP, we’re approaching that point. Your flag on manpower is right on. Technologic changes will change the health care world, not via telemedicine, but in altering manpower quality and quantity. Thanks, Mike.

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