A Frontline View of Healthcare in the Commonwealth

Friday, August 13, 2010

Daisy Gómez is a licensed Social Worker at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and MassINC Associate Board Member.

Every day, I see the direct impact health care polices have on the public.  In my work, I support parents of children diagnosed with cancer as they wrestle with a multitude of concrete needs amidst the challenges of caring for a child with a life-threatening illness.

As one might imagine, having a child diagnosed with cancer brings a hosts of worries. Families are immediately concerned with understanding the diagnosis, learning about treatment options, the side-effects of medication, and charting the prognosis.

Parents desperately scramble across the corners of the earth to identify the best physicians and hospitals. Most middle-class families worry about how to cover the financial costs of their child’s urgent medical care. Dealing with the jargon of insurance premiums, co-payments, transportation reimbursements, and disability claims become a new part of daily life.

These factors combined create a unique weight of stressors that can be difficult to cope with. At the root of all of this is the practical question of how will they access and receive the best medical care for their sick child. For most families I work with, this is when I see tensions subside as families experience first-hand, the high-quality of healthcare in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has a tremendous propensity for nurturing highly-skilled healthcare professionals. Many of which work locally, in some of the country’s best hospitals. In fact, if you watch ABC’s Boston Med you get a sense of the incredible talent and state-of-the-art medicine that defines medical care in Massachusetts. The 8-part documentary-style television series is an incredible testament to the professionalism, dedication and ingenuity that benefits our state.

And it’s not just the high-quality of our medical care that’s impressive. It’s the fact that Bay Staters are required to have health insurance, period. The 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law helped the state achieve the lowest number of uninsured residents in the country. In fact, our approaches in healthcare policy helps explain why our state is now considered one of the healthiest states in the nation.  

I can appreciate that the state’s health care system is not without its flaws and that these policies can benefit from restructuring. A myriad of serious issues, such as patient-provider capacity, rising state health care costs and health disparities among communities of color still pervade.

However, more often than not, I bear witness to the benefits of the progressive and enterprising nature of our state’s healthcare system. Our high medical standards explain why I often meet families who make tremendous sacrifices to travel from all parts of United States and the world to receive life-saving treatment in the Hub.  It’s how healthcare workers are able to help families access top-notch medical care and literally translate policy into life-saving assistance. It’s why insured Bay State families who have a child with a chronic medical disability, like cancer, qualify for secondary insurance.  The exceptional quality of Massachusetts’ healthcare system allows us to better serve the healthcare needs of the public. Judging from the frontlines, it’s a fact that we can certainly be proud of.

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