Ahhh, the ranting. The soaring rhetoric. The partisanship. What’s there not to like about the political season's spectacle of spin, framing and bombast? Thank goodness for the wonkers who can help us separate the inconvenient half-truths from the easy misstatements. Think of this issue of the Health Wonk Review as our own virtual ‘open mike’ free-for-all Convention, sans Roman columns, faux patriotism, naïve rock stars and country-music boogying elders. Wherever you are on the political spectrum, there is something here for you. Don your straw hat, the silly glasses and lapel pins and read on. Your Convention Chair, the Disease Management Care Blog is bringing the gavel down and announcing this compendium forum is now open......
David Williams of the Health Business Blog argues that Obama’s health care proposals, contrary to popular perceptions, would increase competition in the individual insurance market. That competition may be called ‘the government,’ but why not? He points out the private insurance industry has had something of a free ride with their high executive salaries, lofty share prices and inattention to their poor track record on quality and costs. He also notes how absent Medicare is from all the teleprompters, which may not be such a bad thing. David’s post is Part 3. After you read that, you’ll want to read Parts 1, 2 and 4.
Not so fast, says Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters. After recalling the well-known phenomenon of CAT scanners having patients go in one end while dollars come out the other, he contends that an underlying flaw in free-market thinking is the nasty track record of health care increasing demand and with it, costs. Go ahead and buy cheap cross State border insurance you Bush supporters you: you’ll still get irradiated, your physicians’ judgment will be negated and your outcomes will be … variated.
And speaking of money, think all economists would vote for unfettered healthcare markets? Think again. Jason Shafrin at Healthcare Economist points out that another word for ‘decentralized’ is ‘fragmented.’ Other words for fragmented include turnover, cherry picking, inefficient payment systems, competing incentives, excessive variation and monopolistic consolidation. There are links at the bottom that lead to more speechifying about the models that have overcome these problems as well as some policy options that are worth your consideration.
As is her style, Maggie Mahar of the HealthBeat Blog brings the house to its feet with a ‘Part I’ examination of the important difference between having access to care and having access to insurance. Case in point? Go to Boston and toss an 'Obama for President' button in any direction and chances are you’ll hit a specialist physician. Good luck in finding a primary care physician, however. They’re out there, but hiding from new patients because they’re overworked, underpaid, stymied by a hostile training environment, unlikely to hire enough nurses and fed-up by their unattractive life style. The result includes hospital readmissions, emergency room overuse, excessive variation, shortages and queues. And that’s just Part 1. The DMCB is looking forward to Part 2 when the Health Beat Blog shines the light on the notion of a Medical Home (will anyone be at home in this home?). The DMCB is also looking forward to an explanation about why primary care shortages and patient queues aren’t the natural outgrowth of de facto price controls.
Can't wait to hear Maggie's view on the Medical Home? No problem, our next speaker is Arnold Milstein, who uses the Health Affairs bully blogpit to distinguish between medical homes and medical home runs. The DMCB thinks this makes for interesting not only because it has had its own doubts, but because it views homes as 'process,' while runs are the 'outcomes.' As we've learned in other clinical domains, one doesn't necessarily lead to the other. Is the same true here?
Neil Versel of the Healthcare IT Blog takes the dais and shows us just how impolitic it is it is when politicians laughingly speak the honest truth. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced legislation with some commonsense reforms, including an open source EHR, the promotion of de-identified data use, and clarification of HIPAA. Likelihood of passage? Zero. And those of us who have watched Congress deal with other parts of healthcare reform? We say welcome to the club.
But it’s a sad day when doctors fail to speak the truth. Say it’s not so, but Henry Stern of InsureBlog alerts us to a report that some British physicians may not be letting their patients know about the option of getting potentially life-saving treatment abroad. Egads. Maybe they should put their mis-speaking skills to use by coming across the pond, getting U.S. citizenship and running for Congress.
New America’s California branch members Leif Wellington Haase and Micah Weinberg take to the lecturn and dissect California’s messy budget impasse and its impact on MediCal and the individual insurance market. If you believe the Golden State is still a window into the future and support State sponsored reforms, however, be of good cheer. According to this report, a budget will eventually be passed in the short term and Californians are more than ever supportive of meaningful reform and seem to be willing to pay for it over the long term.
And speaking of California (and the rest of states), Anthony Wright of the Health Access Weblog examines the pros and cons of State reforms aimed at the individual insurance market. He points out the ‘ lipstick ’ of guaranteed issue, risk pooling, consumer protections, basic benefit structures and tight regulation may not be enough, but he wonders if it isn’t worth a try. Take a read and see if you agree.
Never mind kissing babies, Roy Poses over at Health Care Renewal calls both the American College of Cardiology and Johnson and Johnson awardees quoted in the Wall Street Journal to task for wanting to keep the bathwater and the babies AND the CME/research funding. Let's face facts, says he. Lingering K-street style conflicts of interest, both known and unknown, are influence-peddling physicians in obvious and subtle ways. He makes a good argument over the groupthink notion that transparency is enough. A case in point is when apologists for the status quo themselves aren’t being fully transparent. The DMCB suggests readers Google their own names before going public with a high profile opinion in the area of pharma support for CME.
Are you a practicing physician and a blogger? Do you like that spotlight of a cheering audience’s attention? Sam Solomon at the Canadian Medicine Blog reminds you that it may pay for you to be scrupulously circumspect when it comes to writing about your patients, especially if there are allegations of negligence. You may think you can mask your identity or protect your patients’ privacy. Think again, because if this determined trial lawyer can find out who you are, chances are others can also. Right after they check out that regrettably unprofessional profile on a social networking site.
Maybe instead of blogging, physicians (and other health policy experts) may want to make better use of their time by not only getting familiar with P4P, DM, PCMH, CDHPs and EHRs but with MP s that are being championed by IHI. Click here to find out if this particular initiative will warrant its own set of initials, thanks to Joanne Kenen of the New Health Dialogue Blog, also of the New America Foundation.
There are the new initiatives of course, but then there are the old ones that work. David Harlow of the HealthBlawg reminds us that the CEO Leah Binder of the Leapfrog Group is still reminding us that we have to start somewhere. That somewhere may be outcomes-based, like hospital acquired infections and multiple other remediable complications that can be addressed with a turnkey NQF-based methodology, maximum transparency and purchaser activism. Now that will warm any crowd.
And then there’s always a speaker that cuts through all the chatter with inconvenient truths. Merrill Goozner of Gooznews reports on the countervailing perspectives of a debate sponsored by the New America Foundation. In the end, we Americans will never yield on our death-is-optional pursuit of happiness, even if means taking a pill of dubious benefit or being tethered to a ventilator with cost effectiveness ratios well north of $100K per QALY.
I think that Obama has done a great job in bringing the US population public health insurance. I think that it is an integral part of the UK and other nations' public life. In many ways, access to healthcare is a basic human right. I have been following developments at the
online insurance index that lists health insurance sites at www.dozeninsurance.com recently. I feel that Obama is doing a good job for the USA overall, it has only been a year. So let's stop giving him a hard time and let him get on with his job. After all, he is a doing a lot better than the previous President ever did.