Health Care Reform Primer for Pre Med Students

‘”I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.”

– President Obama in his address to congress last night

Health care reform is dominating the American public discourse currently, and with good reason. As future physicians, you have a responsibility to understand these issues. It will affect how you practice medicine in the future.

But where to start? A couple months back, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of unraveling this whole debate. It seemed far too complex for me to understand. My lack of understanding led me to fear taking a position.

That changed several weeks ago when I started to do a little research. What I found is that the issue is not as hard to comprehend as I originally thought. What I’ve prepared here is a series of articles that answer the most common questions regarding the health care system and efforts to reform it.

  • First check out this article titled “Your Handy Health Care Cheat Sheet” over at the Washington Post. ,
    • Alec MacGills says“ What follows is an attempt to boil the health-care debate down to 1,000 words — a summary you can take to the beach or on the plane or, if you already know it all, send to your Aunt Millie. Love the proposals or hate them, people can try to make sense of them. There is no excuse!”
  • A lot of misinformation is being spread about health care reform. You may have received a chain email with comments regarding “A few highlights from the first 500 pages of the Healthcare bill.” Check out’s article regarding the false claims in the email.
    • “Our inbox has been overrun with messages asking us to weigh in on a mammoth list of claims about the House health care bill. The chain e-mail purports to give "a few highlights" from the first half of the bill, but the list of 48 assertions is filled with falsehoods, exaggerations and misinterpretations. We examined each of the e-mail’s claims, finding 26 of them to be false and 18 to be misleading, only partly true or half true. Only four are accurate.”
  • The Wall Street Journal opinion section has a good article outlining some alternatives to the reforms proposed. "”How to Insure Every American"
    • “We must stop punishing Americans who buy their own plan by forcing them to purchase their care with after-tax dollars, making it at least one-third more expensive than employer-provided care. Individuals should be able to take their employer’s plan, or turn it down and select insurance of their own choosing without any tax penalty.”
  • For the official government site regarding reform, check out In particular read the Reports section. Lots to read, but lots of good info as well.


  • I highly recommend watching or reading President’ Obama’s speech last night. Watch the video here or read the full text. Just don’t read the youtube comments. Ugh.
    • “You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom; and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter — that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.”

Yes, health care in this country is complex. But with a little effort you can start to understand it. Pre meds have the added motivation knowing that questions regarding reform are going to be asked in a medical school interview. But if that’s the only reason you want to learn about health care reform,  you should question why you’re going into medicine in the first place.