Healthcare Safety Net in 2030

Stephen P. Petzinger, George Mason University

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Abstract As the United States embarks on massive health care reform through the continued implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), policy makers must look to the future with unrelenting support for greater access to care. Albert Einstein (1946), one of the greatest intellectuals of all time, once said, ” . . . a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” How does a health care system, with such deep-rooted principles of profit making and inefficiency, accomplish such lofty aspirations? Balabanova et al. (2013) argued, policy makers need to realize the complexity of the US health care system and that no simple recipe exists for success. No one can accurately predict the state of our health care system 17 years from now or what role the safety-net system will play to increase access to care. However, this author does know that if we ignore or sublimate such important questions, we will be much worse off than we are today.

What is the Safety Net? The safety net in the United States is “a system of health care providers that primarily serve patients who otherwise cannot afford or gain access to care” (Summer, 2011). This health care safety net serves as the default system of care for many people who fall outside the medical and economic mainstream. Unfortunately, the safety net is neither uniformly available throughout the country nor financially secure. Rather, Lewin and Altman (2000), in their landmark report under the direction of the Institute of Medicine, maintained it is a patchwork of institutions, clinics, and physician’s offices, supported with a variety of financing options that vary dramatically from state to state and community to community.

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