AHA president warns of 'crisis' in healthcare delivery

November 12, 2006

Healthcare is a disaster in progress. That was the stark warning from AHA president Raymond Gibbons, MD, during his presidential address yesterday at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions.

Healthcare is a disaster in progress.

That was the stark warning from AHA president Raymond Gibbons, MD, during his presidential address yesterday at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions.

"Our ability to reduce death and disability from cardiovascular disease and stroke is threatened by the growing crisis in healthcare delivery," Dr. Gibbons said. "We must look beyond short-term concerns in the interest of long-term progress."

Lower levels of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have prompted healthcare providers to shift costs, driving up costs and insurance premiums in the private sector. With higher premiums, fewer employers are offering health coverage, increasing the uninsured population. As the number of uninsured increases, reimbursement falls, leading to more cost-shifting.

The average family healthcare premium in the United States now exceeds $11,500 annually. That is more than 250% of the 1991 cost, far higher than inflationary increases. Many small businesses have dropped healthcare coverage. Sixty-seven percent of large firms offered retiree health benefits in 1988, but just 33% offer them today, Dr. Gibbons said.

Over the next 25 years, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will double. Starting in 2011, 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next 20 years.

"Minor patches will not work," Dr. Gibbons said. "The required major fix will be painful."

He added: "The time is long overdue for responsible members of the healthcare community to begin the public discussion that must take place before the public, our patients, our political leaders, and we are willing to make the necessary and difficult decisions."