Keynote Speaker Melissa Jones Discusses US Healthcare System at SEBA Event

A quote by Martin Luther King Jr. set the tone for investigating the current state of our healthcare system in the United States on April 1 at the Soda Center on campus: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Melissa Stafford Jones, keynote speaker at the Elfenworks healthcare conference.

The all-day conference, titled The Business of Health Care and Health Care as a Business: The Role of Human rights and Social Justice, was hosted by the Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business. 

Keynote Speaker

Melissa Jones, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region IX, was the keynote speaker for the event. Region IX includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia. 

Jones, joined by moderators Annie Inglis and Paul Y. Song, discussed issues including the outcome of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Part D, and the pros and cons of a public healthcare system.

Dean Zhan Li said about the conference: "Healthcare is a paramount issue of our society that has profound impact on all of us. Given our school's motto of Think Globally. Lead Responsibly, we are very pleased to have the opportunity to bring different perspectives on healthcare into a focused discussion with a number of prominent leaders in the industry."  

Doctors Alireza Rezapour and Paul Y. Song

Workshops and Panel Discussions 

A workshop titled National Health Program, A Moral and Economic Imperative, was facilitated by doctors Alireza Rezapour and Paul Y. Song. They addressed the overall impact of our current healthcare system in the United States on not only individuals, but on the entire economy. As a whole, they said, it is a system where the bulk of the expense and costs are falling on the consumer.

“The only fair way of having interaction between doctor and patient is a national single-payer program,” said Rezapour.

Rezapour dug into the roots of the problem, including in-depth discussion of the government actions and bills that have been passed, allowing private insurance and pharmaceutical costs to rise unchecked, starting with the Reagan administration, continuing with the HATCH-Waxman act of 1984, the Bay-Doyle act of 1986, and Medicare Part D.

A short video called “Fix-It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point,” showed how our current system is set up to prevent patients from receiving care, with most of our consumer costs going to unecessary administrative expenses rather than to treatment.

The ultimate message of the video was that the impact of healthcare ripples through our entire economy, impacting infrastructure, schools, and local governments. But the message was hopeful in the end: This is a problem we can fix if we just follow the best practices from around the world.

A workshop on Healthcare Innovation: How can entrepreneurs work with patients and providers to accelerate change addressed disruptive innovations in healthcare technology.

Audience member retired doctor Gordon BennerA panel discussion by Redkar, Geetha Rao and Song answered audience questions. Many audience members were curious about how other countries handle a single-payer system. Young answered that Korea has the highest patience satisfaction ranking worldwide, with Taiwan and Canada following close behind; therefore, these are the systems to look to for tips. 

Audience member retired doctor Gordon Benner made a statement that got a round of applause from the entire audience: “Economic problems in medicine are relatively easy to quantify. A factor that is hard to quantify is that patients are in jobs they don’t like and aren’t doing well at, but are trapped in their jobs because of their health care insurance. If we had insurance not tied to employment, that would free up a lot of innovation in the workforce; it would free up people’s ability to do what they love.”

Professor Saroja Subrahmanyan, who facilitated the conference, said of the event when asked for comment, "The conference explored healthcare and business from different perspectives- physicians, drug development, government and innovative technologies.  It was encouraging to hear from the speakers that in spite of the complex relationships between the different entities in the healthcare ecosystem, positive changes can be made  both through technological and health care management innovations."