Those of us working to improve the health system sometimes joke that at least we'll never be out of a job, because there's always so much more that needs to be done. The magnitude of the challenges we face can seem daunting: we spend too much money to achieve often mediocre outcomes; we are under-invested in actually keeping people healthy, with many more resources focused on treating illness rather than preventing it; too many people still lack access to the care they need.
But with Thanksgiving approaching, I am also thinking about what's working in our health system, and the things we have to feel thankful about. When my relatives try to tell me over the holidays how broken our health system is (and when they rib me for not doing enough to fix it), here are three things I'll tell them we should celebrate:
- More people have health insurance. Approximately 1 million New Yorkers gained health insurance coverage through the first open enrollment period after the Affordable Care Act was implemented. More will enroll in Medicaid and private plans during the current open enrollment season, which goes through February 15. And they're not just signing up: a recent poll found that 92 percent of newly-insured New Yorkers are satisfied with their coverage, and 82 percent of those surveyed say that they are actually using their coverage for range of health services, from primary care check-ups to medications to dental care. It's clear that health reform is working in New York, even though we still have more work to do to ensure that coverage and care are affordable and meet the needs of consumers. I trust that market forces and consumer advocacy will lead to improvements in offerings within the Exchange.
I'm sure that we will argue about Obamacare at my family's Thanksgiving dinner; we will fight about who the villains are in the health system; we will ponder the relative importance of personal responsibility and genetics and environmental factors when it comes to how healthy we are. That's family, and it's as American as apple pie. But I'll also take a moment this Thanksgiving to think about how far we've come and how much promise our health system holds.