Long Road to Reform

, Emily Kanyi, Leave a comment

Some in Washington view Obama’s efforts to revamp the health care sector as yet another example of the government interfering in the affairs of its citizens. “I believe the key is, ‘how do we reduce health care costs?’ It’s clearly by not involving the government,” said Rick Scott, founder of the Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR) group while speaking at a panel hosted by the Council for National Policy (CNP) Action Inc. on July 14.

According to CPR, the government’s health care reform plan is akin to Britain’s government rationing body, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). “There is a strong correlation between the British system and the road that the U.S. is taking with healthcare reform,” stated a report by CPR. “NICE was set up to monitor the ‘effectiveness’ of medical treatments and preventive measures, but its main purpose has become to contain costs by rationing patient care,” continued the report.

CPR has launched television ads featuring horror stories of patients from the UK and Canada who faced terminal illness but could not access the required medical attention because of high drug costs or long waits.

Also of concern, according to the CPR report, is the role of the $1.1 billion health care board, the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (FCCCER) created by President Obama after taking office. “Chief among concerns is that analyzing the comparative effectiveness of medical procedures and technologies will lead FCCCER to focus not on what treatment works best across all patient populations, but which interventions cost the least,” stated the report.

“Allowing the government to pick winners and losers from the pool of American patients when it comes to treatment options will inevitably lead to reducing care available to American patients and physicians across the board, as is currently the practice of Great Britain’s NICE,” the report continues.

Gregg Scandlen, director for Consumers for Health Care Choices—also a panelist at the CNP event—cited the role of insurance companies as major obstacles in health care. “The essential problem in healthcare is third party payment. The consumer doesn’t know who his doctor is working for. This is a violation [of trust] between a physician and a patient,” said Scandlen. “If we go into the public program, it is the government that will be standing in the shoes of the insurance companies,” he continued.

Nina Owcharenko, deputy director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, expressed concern that the current administration has not laid out a clear way how the costs for the health care reforms will be met. “We can look at a ten year window and think that’s all the bill is going to cost. Seven hundred and eighty-one billion dollars over ten years. We have 781 billion dollars that does not include Medicaid,” she urged. “It is very important to understand the magnitude of this bill. We are talking about trillions of dollars. How are they going to pay for this?” asked Owcharenko.

Recent budgetary estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on July 14 indicate the bill will cost 1.04 trillion dollars over the 2010 – 2019 period.

In related news, the Markle Foundation, the Center for American Progress and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution jointly pointed out the need for health information technology (IT) investments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

In a joint press release, the three organizations stated that “dramatic improvements in health and reduction in cost growth are achievable if efforts to boost health IT are aligned with broader health care reform.”

“Health reform and health IT investments will protect all Americans only if we set concrete health improvement targets and identify the specific costs to be controlled,” said Zoe Baird, President of the Markle Foundation.

“We must take concrete steps now toward a health care system that pays for better quality and lower costs, rather than the unsustainable status quo of paying primarily for volume of medical services,” said Mark McClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform.

The trio called on both private and public sector stakeholders to adopt the 2015 health care improvement goals recently presented by an advisory committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT. The goals include among others, preventing one million heart attacks and strokes, cutting rates of medication errors, preventable hospitalizations, and providing patients with easy access to their own medical information.

Emily Kanyi is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

 

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