For 13 years I have been a patient who has interacted with the healthcare system quite a lot – fortunately not an excessive amount in recent years as my leukemia has been in remission. And since 1984 I have interviewed thousands of other patients and healthcare professionals. I have probably heard more healthcare stories than most people in “medical journalism.”

So with that history, what would I say about Healthcare reform, especially if a powerful legislator like Senator Max Baucus or one of the “Blue Dog” Democrat Congressmen might read this?

First, I agree with President Obama. We can’t wait. Not just because there are far too many people without health coverage, but also because the system is sinking us all under skyrocketing costs and huge inefficient duplications, and too often bad medical practices. We need an overhaul and I don’t think delay will lead to getting anything done.

I am for either a public health plan for the uninsured or, like we have Group Health Cooperative here in Seattle, cooperatives that are private, offer care, and are focused on wellness and prevention.

We also need evidence-based medical practices nationwide and not the hodgepodge of approaches that vary. For example, why are so many more back surgeries done in one region than another?

I also grieve for my friends in primary care. They are overworked, under-appreciated and very much underpaid. They need to be valued as a key to all of us getting healthier and avoiding expensive illnesses. We need to encourage students to go into primary care and prevention must be Job #1.

Then there’s information technology. The President is big on this and so am I. So many medical offices and clinics are in the stone ages. Or, if they have any electronic medical record system, it doesn’t talk to anyone else’s. All of this needs to be integrated and, as my friends at Microsoft advocate, the consumer needs to be in control.

Lastly, we each need to take a lot more personal responsibility for our health. We ensure our road to illnesses and shorter lives, and high healthcare costs, every time we eat poorly, buy food products with little nutrition or harmful chemicals, and fail to do even basic exercise. Then all of a sudden we need the healthcare system to fix us – at any cost. We now know that cost is way too high and out of sync with the health efficiencies and culture we see in Europe, for example.

We can be better. And breakthrough legislation can make it happen. Sure, as the President says, change is scary and tough, and everyone may have to give up something. But if we don’t, things will just get worse.

I can sympathize with the legislators who want to take a vacation. Who want to slow the process. And I understand the lobbyists that want to make sure their client wins no matter what. It’s a daunting task to make this change. But I am all for doing it right now. Fine tuning can come later.

Please comment on this, as it’s just my opinion. Admittedly, I am an Obama fan and I am pleased with his intelligent leadership. I hope he can pull this off!

Wishing you and your family the best of health!

Andrew