March 26, 2009

Whitehouse Joins Health, Consumer Advocate Coalition to Push for Health Delivery System Reform

New Poll Shows Hospital-Acquired Infections, Medical Errors More Common than Expected

Washington, D.C. – For the millions of Americans battling cancer, diabetes, stroke, or cardiovascular disease, their lives and their health depend on health care that is high-quality, efficient, and cost-effective. But too often in America’s health care system, that’s not the kind of care they’re getting.

As momentum builds for comprehensive health care reform, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) helped bring together a coalition of major national health and consumer advocacy organizations at an event in Washington, D.C. earlier today. The group pressed for health care reform that not only expands coverage, but fundamentally changes the way health care is delivered in this country.

“If we don’t get a humane, efficient, thorough delivery system reform accomplished now, when that tsunami of health care costs hits us we will be left with a very ugly toolbox to work from,” Whitehouse said today.

With Whitehouse’s leadership, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the American Heart Association (AHA), and Consumers Union released a joint statement of their priorities in the health care reform debate.

“While insurance coverage for all Americans is an important goal, we must give equal weight in the health care reform debate to changes that improve the quality of care, increase and improve the delivery of preventive services, and ensure that individuals always receive care that is safe, efficient and without unnecessary interventions, tests, and treatment,” the organizations said.

A new study released at the event today shows that problems in the health care system, and their impact on patients’ lives and health, might be more widespread than previously understood.

Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, released new polling data showing that 18 percent of adults reported that they or an immediate family member had acquired an infection following a procedure at a hospital or medical facility. Nearly 6 out of 10 said these infections were severe or life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 100,000 people die each year from hospital-acquired infections.

Respondents to the Consumers Union survey also reported that medical errors were fairly common. 13 percent of those polled have had their medical records lost or misplaced; 12 percent have had a diagnostic test that was not done properly; and 9 percent – nearly one in ten – have been given the wrong medicine by a pharmacist when they filled a prescription.

In many cases, a greater emphasis on health care quality and preventative care, coupled with better health information technology infrastructure, will help address some of these systemic problems.

Gina Gavlak, a registered nurse from Cleveland, Ohio and a volunteer for the American Diabetes Association, spoke about her experience living with Type 1 diabetes and treating others with the illness. After she married, she said, she had to get health coverage through COBRA for a year before she could transition onto her husband’s health insurance, because of her pre-existing condition.

“Having diabetes means that I spend a lot of time navigating our health care system. This is not an easy system to navigate, even with a health care background,” she said. “I am living proof that prevention and access to diabetes equipment, supplies, and education works – but it only works if access is there, if it’s affordable, and mostly that it’s adequate.”


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