Local professor proposes re-engineering health care mess
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS In Comprehensive Healthcare for the U.S., Bill Roth, Ph.D., of Penn Forest Township, compiled three years of research by his MBA class of health care professionals into the creation of a model for a U.S. health care system.
In Comprehensive Healthcare for the U.S., Bill Roth, Ph.D., of Penn Forest Township, a senior fellow at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, compiled three years of research by his MBA class of health care professionals, into the creation of a model for a U.S. health care system.
Roth will be discussing his book at the Monday, March 8 meeting of the Renaissance Club.
Even the eyes of Washington are on Carbon County. Since being published in February, Roth has received requests for his book from Senators Russell Feingold and Henry A. Waxman, and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
The project began three years ago when Roth was teaching at DeSales University.
"When, at the last minute, a colleague could not lead an MBA-level course on health care policy, I volunteered to teach it," Roth said. "I didn't have any background in health care policy and I was teaching professionals - some with over 20 years of experience. So, I had them teach me, and that's when I really got interested in our health care system and began to learn what a mess it was."
"So," Roth said, "let's redesign it."
When asked why, Roth replied, "It's for profit and everybody is trying to make a buck. Insurance companies take 30 percent out of every health care dollar for administrative costs. In other countries, it is 5 percent or less.
"We don't have a health care system in the United States," Roth said. "We have a bunch of parts. Some are very good and some are terrible."
"To my MBA class, I challenged the students to redesign a health care system for the United States that was comprehensive and cost effective." That's what he did for six classes over three years.
"All the students in this class were experienced professional physicians, administrators, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and social workers," Roth noted. "They had quite a bit to say."
Roth began his study by referring to a year 2000 report by the World Health Organization, ranking the health care systems of the countries of the world. The U.S. came out 38th.
Roth had his class look at the countries ahead of the U.S., and focus on the strengths of their systems.
Over the following six terms, teams surveyed these countries and their health care systems.
They documented how they were designed and their strengths and weaknesses.
"At the end of the period, I had a six-inch high stack of reports on different countries and how their health care systems were designed," Roth said. "Then to the second part of the course - to take this information and redesign part of the U.S. Health Care system."
When the projects were completed, Roth had their designs.
"So," he said, "this would make an interesting book." It was published as Comprehensive Healthcare for the U.S.
"We started on the premise that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege," Roth noted. "In every other country in the world that has a health care system - it's a right, not a privilege. In the United States, it is basically a privilege. We have to pay for it. We found that people in the United States pay twice as much for health care as any other country in the world. That's insane, absurd.
"Our proposed model is the model that the rest of the world is moving toward - and it makes good sense," said Roth. "There are people who want private services. England tried to get rid of that and tried to have a totally government sponsored universal health system. It didn't work because there was no incentive for the providers, and there was no emphasis on prevention. England is now moving toward the model that these other countries have in place."
Roth's system allows for both a universal system that focuses on prevention and general health care, alongside a private insurance-based for-profit system.
Each system would have four levels: a community health care center, a specialized clinic, a regional hospital and a teaching hospital.
"I've spoken with over 100 doctors, and except for one, they want to get rid of insurance companies," said Roth.
Asked about how the proposals in Washington compare to his Comprehensive Healthcare for the U.S., Roth said, "The programs on health care reform are not at all consistent with the plan in the book. There is no emphasis on prevention. Nobody has reigned the insurance companies in.
"As far as I am concerned, the model in Washington is not going to do what people need it to do - especially now that they have gotten rid of the universal health care element," said Roth.
"My recommendation," Roth concluded. "I say start over."
Roth will speak at the Renaissance Club on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Hill Home Forge B&B, 10 Flagstaff Road in Jim Thorpe. Call (570) 325-0216 for more information.