Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Crystal Ball for Healthcare Reform

The internet, the talk shows, and the newspapers are full of stories about healthcare reform. The pundits and the experts are batting around proposals and various solutions related to healthcare. There is some allure to throwing our current healthcare system out and starting over. Realistically, that just isn’t possible.

I’ve said it before: reforming healthcare is like peeling an onion. There are layers under layers, under layers that must be addressed before anything that looks like reform can be useful. Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, personal responsibility, preventive and public health emphasis, physician payment, medical liability, pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturers, single-payor system, tax credits, electronic health records, fee for service, pay for performance…these are just a few of the issues being addressed. Each is complicated at best on their own, but extraordinarily so when trying to fit them all together into one cohesive package.

Last week I attended a meeting in Cedar Rapids with Senator Grassley on the topic of healthcare reform. It is the committee he serves as ranking minority member (and former chair), the Senate Finance Committee, that is currently shaping the debate. He hopes for a bipartisan approach to this monumental task; I share that hope. He is pushing for all involved parties to have some skin in the game; that also makes sense to me. Finally, he noted we must not have government making decisions about individual healthcare issues; another ideal I share.

Several years ago when I was on the American Hospital Association board of trustees, we started discussing healthcare reform. More recently, the AHA set out a framework for change which includes the following five tenants: healthcare coverage for all; paid for by all; focus on wellness; most efficient affordable care; highest quality care; and best information. These principals and ideals seem like a great place to start.

We’re hearing that there should be some healthcare reform legislation crafted this summer to be ready for the President before Congress takes a recess in August. It’s entirely possible that we will have a different sort of healthcare system by the end of the year. My crystal ball is certainly no clearer than anyone else’s, but it is clear to me we will have some big changes by year end. The question is, will it be meaningful reform or just window dressing…

It could be a very hot summer in Washington.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

No comments: