Does our healthcare system work? |

Does our healthcare system work?

Daily Staff Report
Special to the DailyShannon Brownlee

We spend more dollars on healthcare per capita than any other developed nation, yet we rank near the bottom in terms of health statistics. Does our healthcare system actually “care” for our health? On Monday, the Vail Symposium will host a talk with healthcare journalist Shannon Brownlee. Brownlee will highlight some of the cultural, economic and political forces that contribute to the poor quality and high cost of healthcare in the United States, and point the way toward solutions. Brownlee’s talk, “The Anatomy of U.S. Healthcare,” will take place at the Antlers at Vail from 5:30-7:15 p.m. Cost is $10 and includes light hors d’oeuvres, with cash bar.Brownlee warns that what she has to say may surprise a lot of people. “People assume that because U.S. healthcare is so expensive, we must have great healthcare,” she said. The fact of the matter, she says, is that our healthcare is actually quite poor. “It’s not available to 47 million Americans, there are high rates of errors, we don’t receive care that we know works,” she said, and the list goes on.

Brownlee points out that there is also an enormous amount of care delivered that is really useless, which drives the price of healthcare through the roof (accounting for as much as a third of the nation’s medical bill, in fact). “There’s a huge lack of scientific evidence for many medical practices,” Brownlee said. “And a lot of care we really need is really simple, but it falls through the cracks.” This unnecessary care is driven by market forces, she explained.However, not all is hope is lost. “I believe it is totally possible for us to have a really great healthcare system,” Brownlee said. “We need to rethink every piece of the system.” The journalist explained that we need to make some important changes, but they will be painful changes. Certain sectors in the medical industry will inevitably be downsized and really need to be so, but unfortunately that could translate into a loss of jobs for many.

Brownlee’s presentation will consider this and other healthcare issues as raised in her forthcoming book, “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Americans Sicker and Poorer.” She will discuss the cultural, economic, and political forces that have caused our healthcare system to falter and fail. She will also illustrate how we can do it better, what changes she would recommend for our national system, and include how we can be better patients as well. For reservations and more information, please visit, or call 476-0954.

Support Local Journalism