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COVID-19 Is Not Driving Better Healthcare Discussion

Brad Spellberg, MD, explains how real progress can be made to a debted system with worsened rates of user health.

Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has been many people’s introduction to unique facets of medicine: drug and vaccine development, research and academics, even hospital resourcing.

But, especially given the toll the pandemic has taken on the US, many have posited whether it’s influenced people’s perception of the federal healthcare system—one that’s become synonymous with spending and debate over access versus choice.

There’s also the common notion that infectious disease, a subspecialty with limited budgeting and dwindled resources, will see a boom in personnel and future interest due to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, Brad Spellberg, MD, doesn’t see either to be true.

In an interview with Contagion, Spellberg, chief medical officer of the Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center, and author of the book Broken, Bankrupt and Dying, said he believes infectious disease will continue to lose out indebted medical school students to more financially promising specialties like cardiology and dermatology after the pandemic.

“Medical school debt is what it is,” he said. “ID physician salaries are what they are.”

His means for improved infectious disease status are two-fold: better leadership, and a uniform call for healthcare reform.

“We spend 2 to 2.5 times more per capita and per GDP than our peer nations,” Spellberg said. “And for that massive excess cost, we live shorter lives and have higher mortality rates. Americans are being ripped off by our healthcare system.”

His suggestion is the US looks to nations like Australia and New Zealand, which have both established successful systems that allow single- and multi-payer options to coexist. Nothing would be more American, Spellberg quipped, than to allow conflicting healthcare ideologies play out simultaneously.