Five former HHS officials say U.S. health system needs overhaul

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 20 2002 12:00 AM ET

Five former Health and Human Services officials on Monday said the nation's health care system is "too costly, inefficient, and unfair" and that it needs an "overhaul," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The five--F. David Matthews, who served under President Ford; Joseph Califano, who led the health department under President Carter; Louis Sullivan, who was President Bush's HHS secretary; Donna Shalala, HHS secretary under President Clinton; and David Satcher, surgeon general during the Clinton administration--spoke in Atlanta during a public-broadcast program sponsored by the Southern Center for International Studies. They said the current U.S. health care system has "many flaws," including too much emphasis on high-tech treatments at the expense of less-costly primary care and financial barriers preventing many minorities and poor people from accessing adequate care, particularly for diseases that are expensive to treat, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, hepatitis, and others.

"The health care system can't survive in its present state, because we can't afford the way it is organized," Shalala said. "But there is no agreement about what the solution should be, and all of the large steps taken in the past--Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--were possible only because there was a broad consensus."