Public health advances top Merrill Goozner’s wish list to Santa

Dear Santa,
You don’t hear from me very often because I’m old and I’m Jewish. But after 2020, I’m also a bit desperate. As Princess Leia said to Obi-Wan Kenobi: “You’re my only hope.”

Here’s my holiday wish list for 2021:

1. I want the global pharmaceutical industry to put public health ahead of profits by collaborating to produce enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines so that everyone who wants a vaccination can get it by midyear.

2. I want the World Health Organization (with the U.S. rejoined) to convene a Zoom meeting of all manufacturers and government leaders, and not let them off the call until they figure out how to make the vaccine free for all with adequate supply in every country.

3. I want at least 80% of Americans to ignore the vaccine skeptics and get their shots.

4. I want public health officials to loudly publicize the short-term side effects of the vaccines so people don’t get bamboozled by tweets from disinformation super-spreaders; and I want those same officials to ensure every community gets an adequate supply of the vaccine.

5. I want every American to comply with masking and social distancing guidelines for the next several months so our beleaguered front-line healthcare workers—who deserve so much more than being named No. 1 on Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare list—can get some much-needed rest.

6. I want every American to have comprehensive health insurance that covers all essential medical services, with total out-of-pocket spending, including out-of-network charges, never rising above a reasonably low percentage of annual income.

7. I want elected officials in the dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid to heed the examples of Oklahoma and Missouri, GOP-dominated states where voters this year approved by large majorities ballot initiatives expanding the program under the Affordable Care Act.

8. I want Sen. Mitch McConnell to realize that failing to grant emergency aid to state and local governments will hurt his state more than most. Kentucky, where a third of the population and over 60% of children are on Medicaid, gets 72% of its Medicaid funding from the federal government because its median income is fourth-lowest in the U.S. 

9. I want the incoming Biden administration to devise a comprehensive plan that addresses the social determinants of health and sets specific goals for reducing racial disparities in health outcomes. 

10. I want every healthcare worker to earn at least $15 an hour, and that minimum wage should go up at least as much as the inflation rate every year.

11. I want Congress and the incoming Biden administration to provide adequate financial support to hospitals, nursing homes, home health and hospice agencies to support that level of wages.

12. I want members of Congress to ignore their hedge fund donors and put an end to surprise billing. Let hospitals, insurance companies and their trade groups sort out the mess.

13. I want higher pay for primary-care, behavioral health, geriatric, and family/pediatric physicians, which will encourage more medical students to enter those fields. Put coal in the AMA’s Relative Value Scale Update Committee’s stocking. Maybe it will get the hint.

14. I want Congress to do more to address opioid addiction and invest more in the hardest-hit communities, including in an infrastructure bill with funding to convert small hospitals, both urban and rural, into comprehensive wellness and treatment centers that can serve as economic anchors.

15. Finally, I want to see real progress in moving all providers into value-based payment arrangements so that managing peoples’ health, not their illnesses, becomes the new normal.

Happy holidays, everyone. May your 2021 be better than 2020. It’s got to be, right?

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