WSW: Health Care's History And The Present

May 26, 2016

Bronson Hospital - file photo
Credit WMUK

Kalamazoo doctor Ken Fisher says he wrote a new book about the history of health care, in part, because he wants to show how difficult it is to change ideas. 


Fisher’s book is called Understanding Healthcare: a Historical Perspective. He’s previously written about health care reform and end of life care.

The book starts with the scientific revolution, which Fisher says meant that medicine became based on science, rather than superstition. He says the integration of science into medicine met resistance and was a long process.

Much of Fisher’s book focuses on the American Medical Association. He says the group is responsible for integrating science into medicine, the creation of medical schools and making medicine a profession. Fisher says the AMA leadership understood that both science and the ability to understand people are important in medicine. 

Cover of Ken Fisher's E-Book
Credit Courtesy of Ken Fisher

Fisher says the AMA was correct is advocating for the bond between patient and doctor. But he says they fought against insurance, and against government assistance for people who couldn’t afford care. Fisher says they never came up with counter-proposals that would maintain the physician-patient relationship, but would also allow people to get care even if they can’t afford it. Fisher says “they were on the wrong side of history.”

Fisher favors a combination of Health Savings Accounts and high-deductible insurance plans. He says that shouldn’t be mandatory, but should be an option. HSA’s are allowed under the Affordable Care Act, but Fisher says a couple of adjustments are needed to make them viable.

Asked if access to health care is a right, Fisher says that depends on the definition of a “right.” But he says it is in society’s interest to have people as healthy as possible so they are as productive as possible for their whole lives. 

Fisher says there are several problems with the current health care system in the United States. He says they include a lack of transparent pricing, and the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid. Fisher says the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, won’t fix those problems. He says real reform should focus on the patient and allowing them to make informed choices about their own health care.

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