Individual Responsibility Is Key to Health Care Concerns

Published April 1, 2002

As I read Health Care News and appreciate your excellent coverage of health care issues, it upsets me to see the conservative health care reformers falling into the health care entitlement trap—effectively assuring only government entitlements can solve all the problems while downplaying individual responsibility.

Individual responsibility has been the mortar holding our country together and providing for the progress making us a great nation. From what I have seen and experienced over many years as a physician, individual responsibility is the essential ingredient government health care reform plans circumvent.

Top quality, affordable health care is dependent on the individual responsibility of each of the three main players in health care: the patients, the health care providers, and the third party providing payment.

They should be independent of each other except in those instances when the patient has no third-party payer. However, even when a competent adult patient receives financial assistance from a third party, the responsibility for obtaining, decision making, and following through with the management of health care and its payment should remain with the patient.

Physician peer review and government judicial oversight must be in place to help and protect the patient. Individual responsibility for decision-making and treatment as well as payment for services rendered must remain in the hands of each adult patient for the best possible outcomes. This requires the necessary prioritization of the patient’s wants and financial resources.

The attending physician as well as other providers must be held responsible for the health care management advised and provided. The third party must be held responsible for fulfilling the contractual agreement. However, the ultimate medical outcome is dependent on so many factors that it cannot be guaranteed.

Fortunately, most physicians and other health care support professionals are highly trained and compassionate in their desire to provide the highest standard of quality care for the advantaged as well as the disadvantaged.

Milton A. Kamsler Jr., M.D. is a retired physician living in Wisconsin. He can be reached at [email protected].