By Group Consensus

EDITOR’S NOTE: This opinion piece is the fourth submission from a group of citizen authors of diverse ideologies who meet numerous times to discuss public issues and seek agreement on public policy solutions.

Our first article in this trilogy on health care stated the premise we feel must guide and shape any further discussion on healthcare: Americans should be their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers for healthcare since it is a necessary social good. Once we agreed upon this governing premise, we set the six values, guidelines and benchmarks listed below to provide structure for a better American healthcare system.

1. Basic healthcare coverage must be inclusive: All Americans should receive adequate healthcare. A healthy nation increases national security, economic stability and domestic tranquility. Opportunities can still exist for those who wish to supplement their healthcare plan as they are able.

2. The approach should be incremental: We feel that an immediate, complete overhaul of the present healthcare system would be neither manageable nor sustainable. More enduring results can be achieved by moving deliberately and making adjustments based upon experience and lessons learned.

To create a more economical, efficient, and effective healthcare system, we should seek new ways to repurpose, streamline, connect and redirect existing medical structures and procedures.

3. Healthcare costs and preventive healthcare should be shared as a partnership between society and the individual: We feel that with effective healthcare available to all, everyone should contribute as they can. These contributions could take many forms, such as community service, mandated insurance, or Medicaid restructuring, but reciprocity is key.

Funding mechanisms and sources should be reconsidered, including the roles of private insurance and employer-funded programs.

4. State and national public health systems should be strengthened: A sound health system requires strong educational programs for all ages, but especially for young people, to assist individuals in maintaining their own health.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated a clear need for strong, functioning national and state public health programs to offer direction and specialized resources during health emergencies.

5. Costs must be reduced and efficiency increased: The high cost of healthcare, whether for prescriptions, medical services, or hospital care, remains the greatest concern of the American public. Administrative expenses approach 20% of healthcare costs, with very little added health benefits for Americans.

All healthcare costs must be transparent, and competition should be enabled at every level. The savings from this continuous cost-conscious effort may be reinvested to further increase healthcare quality for everyone.

6. Healthcare should be effective and measurable: Better healthcare should be related to improved patient outcomes, not the result of unnecessary costly procedures or efforts to avoid medical liability. Performance metrics for all healthcare providers and services should be collected and available so that progress can be measured, and improvements targeted.

A subsequent article will provide our perspectives on how these values, guidelines and benchmarks can be used to implement a better American healthcare system.

The dialogue group is interested in growing larger to help increase its credibility and impact. If you can have an open mind, are willing to learn regardless of your political views or party, and would like to join or learn more about our group, contact Richard Hammes at

Authors: Roger Bernier lives in Okatie; Greg Blackburn, Bladen Crockett and Earle Everett live in Bluffton; Rick Dean, Richard Hammes and Emily Oetjen live on Hilton Head Island.