March 10th, 2009
11:54 AM ET

Jumping in head first to health care policy

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent


All this week, we are going to jump into something that is hardly ever covered on television. There is no question that health policy, full of its obscure terms and wonkish numbers, may have a better home in newspapers or long-form magazine pieces. But over the last few months, I have been thinking about this non-stop.

Health policy has been debated over and over again since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, and most recently in the mid ’90s, under the leadership of then first lady, Hillary Clinton.

As you may know, I worked as a White House fellow during President Clinton’s second term and I most recently was considered for the post of surgeon general. While I chose to continue my neurosurgical practice at the local county hospital and help my wife prepare for the birth of our third child, I did have a unique chance to independently evaluate some of the Obama health care plan components.

As we sat down as a production team, we tried to focus on some of the key issues those plans seek to address. I emphasized a couple of points: First, let’s remember there are real people and stories behind all these numbers. All of our segments will reflect that. Second, do not bite off more than we can chew. We will pick a specific topic on any given day, and see to it that you can understand it fully, before moving on to the next topic. This week, we picked five areas of the health care discussion that will help inform your thinking. While there will be many more topics to come, we found these essential as starting points.

We start off with a discussion of universal health care. Turns out you don’t have to travel to Canada or France to get a glimpse of how it might work. We have a model right here in this country, in the state of Massachusetts. What are the lessons learned?

Next will be a look at “pre-existing condition.” If you hear that term from your insurance company, it feels like the kiss of death. But, aren’t those with pre-existing conditions the ones who need insurance most?

Countries like India can offer very good health care at 10 percent of the cost of the United States. How?  (Watch Video)

Preventive care is another term you will hear a lot. As a doctor, I can tell you, of course it makes sense to keep people from getting sick in the first place. Are more screenings the answer or will they cause more anxiety and higher costs in the long run? (Read More).

And, finally this week, we will give you a segment we’re calling the “Young Invincibles.” When you are young, you feel immortal and perhaps don’t feel you need to worry about such mundane things as health insurance. So, what if something catastrophic happens to you while you are uninsured? How will it shape the rest of your life?

Over the weeks and months to come, I will strive to be your independent and objective guide as we explain this complicated but important world. You will not find a more passionate and committed translator. Let’s start the conversation.

Programming Note: Tune in to hear more from Dr. Sanjay Gupta every night this week on AC360 at 10 PM eastern.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.