Op-Ed: In Healthcare, More Tests and Procedures Do Not Ensure Better Outcomes

One thing certain is that the current fee-for-service system is not working for New Jersey. We need something better

Lizette Delgado-Polanco
The future of healthcare is uncertain. There could be wide scale changes to the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), some changes, or none at all. What we know for certain though is that here, in New Jersey, the current fee-for-service system has not created a better quality — or lower cost, healthcare system. New Jersey has to move on to something better.

In the fee-for-service system, doctors must see as many patients as possible, which shortens the amount of time they can spend with each individual. This means, in essence, that doctors are paid for the number of appointments they can make, but not for keeping patients healthy.

[img-narrow:/assets/16/1222/1037]I have had my own unfortunate personal experiences with the failings of the fee-for-service system. A few years ago, my mother became ill with a heart condition. She had to depend on a local health clinic to get her medications and the attention she needed. During this time, she would complain about various symptoms she was having, especially pain in her throat. Clearly, something was wrong outside of her heart condition.

Her doctor, rushing to get through because of the numerous patients he had to see, was not able to give her the full attention she needed. It was a few minutes at a time, and then on to the next person. Meanwhile, my mother was having blood work done every single week. She was told time and again that there was nothing wrong.

One day she woke up and began spitting up blood. I took her to the emergency room, where it was discovered she had full-blown, Stage 4 cancer. She had been complaining for a year, but the doctor was never able to take the time that he needed to take with her. It was a product of being in an environment that acts more like an assembly line, rather than one that seeks to keep people healthy.

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My point in sharing this story is not to play the blame game. I do not blame the doctor. It was the system that failed my mother. The way healthcare in New Jersey currently operates simply isn’t viable. People do not feel like they get the attention they need. They do not understand the language of healthcare that insiders and experts use. They do not know how to read their bills, what their healthcare options are, or what questions they should be asking their doctors.

New Jersey’s healthcare system needs a comprehensive overhaul. We have to find a solution that’s actually going to work — one that will bring costs down but at the same time give quality healthcare to everyday people. Not only the ones who have good health benefits, but all New Jerseyans.

Recently, a new organization called Better Choices, Better Care NJ was launched to help address these problems. Better Choices, Better Care NJ seeks to educate consumers on how New Jersey’s current healthcare system works, what options currently exist to make it better, and to get feedback directly from consumers on what they want to see changed about the system. This group, of which I am proud to be a steering committee member, does not have all the answers. That is why we are looking for feedback and why we plan on bringing in healthcare experts from across the country to provide input on best practices.

I joined this effort for many reasons. The experience with my mother showed me just how vulnerable New Jerseyans are to this broken system. Moreover, as someone who has been active in organized labor for years, I have heard countless stories from people who do not know how to make our healthcare system work for them. As a union member, I am fortunate to have outstanding healthcare coverage. But I want all New Jerseyans to get the same kind of low-cost, quality care that I am blessed to receive.

Fee-for-service has to go. Of that there is no doubt. But what replaces it has to be something that is affordable, while also providing high quality coverage for hard-working New Jerseyans and their families. A better system is out there. Now New Jersey has to take the steps needed to find it.

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