The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s American Medical Association chapter hosted a discussion panel including five local medical leaders and their thoughts about the current state of health care and its future. 

The five speakers included, Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Jack Sobel, Plum Health Direct Primary Care founder, Dr. Paul Thomas, Senator of Michigan’s seventh district, Patrick Colbeck, Health Officer for the City of Detroit and Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed and Michigan Urgent Care founder in 1998, Dr. Mohammed Aiswala.

Each panelist discussed their concerns with our countries healthcare system where the typical issue of cost arose. The panelists agreed that, generally, every citizen is concerned with the high price of healthcare which sometimes leaves part of our population living without a healthcare plan, simply because they can not afford it.

Senator Colbeck proposed that a free market system would reconstruct healthcare and contribute to its availability becoming cheaper because companies could then personally determine how much money to charge for specific healthcare plans without government and insurance company middle-men. He explained that there would be an increased interaction between those providing healthcare and those needing healthcare, which would help clarify the price.

On the opposing side Dr. El-Sayed said that a free market healthcare system is not the route we should take. He said that all markets fail because there is a lack of control and the actual issue with healthcare is deeper. He described that no amount of healthcare given to a patient can change the environment they live in.

He specifically pointed to residents in Detroit, saying that you can tell a patient to eat healthier, exercise better and pay more attention to their health, but that will not change the fact that they live in an environment so close to emissions of industrial pollution. 

El-Sayed said he believes the solution is to promote and create healthy lifestyles and environments as acts of healthcare throughout life, not just when it’s called upon.

Addressing the price issue, Dr. Thomas explained his efforts to combat expensive healthcare with his direct primary care services and said that a major issue is there is no transparency within prices in medicine. 

“We can’t compare quality and we can’t compare prices,” he said.

He described how there is no fixed rate for medicine and medical treatment. Within his practice he tries to keep healthcare affordable by only using whole sale medications and at-cost labs with no additional fees as a small solution to the greater problem.

Bringing a whole new perspective to the table, Dr. Sobel said that a major issue with healthcare today is the lack of primary care physicians. He described that although many medical students have intentions to be primary care physicians, the student debt they endure can not fairly be paid with that salary. As a reaction, students become specialists instead, so they can afford to pay their school debt.

Sobel explained that a specialist can make $500,000 or more annually, where primary care physicians make only $100-$200,000 and their help is both cheaper and more immediate, but it is now scarce. 

“The healthcare system is not meeting our needs,” Sobel said, and he explained that the solution is not an impossible one. He said universal healthcare could be made possible, but we will have to pay higher taxes, which is a low price for the betterment of society. 

Among these different points, each panelist agreed that a clear solution is hard to see amongst all of these insurance companies, deductibles and co-pays, but the first step is to spread information and awareness about the aspects of our public healthcare, so we can build a stronger plan for the future. 

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