Heatlh Reform

HEALTH REFORM: Quick Comparison ...and Sticking Points

NPR and Kaiser Health News put together a short but useful comparison of the House and Senate health bills -- including a bit of oddsmaking on the big sticking points. Of the nine issues they assessed, abortion (no surprise there) and employer requirements are judged potentially the most contentious to resolve. The individual mandate, creation of a health insurance exchange, and help for small businesses and low-income individuals seem to have more common ground.

HEALTH CARE: The AARP Tries to Soothe Fears of Medi-Scared Seniors

One of the great ironies of the health reform debate is that one of the groups that is most apprehensive about the drive to cover all Americans is the group that is already covered -- America's seniors. The AARP is gearing up its efforts to soothe their fears.

Another great irony is that the Republicans now casting themselves as the defenders of Medicare have for years pursued one version after another of radically changing the very nature of Medicare -- most recently, as Ron Brownstein in the National Journal pointed out, by voting for a House GOP budget this year that would have replaced Medicare's guarantees of coverage for the elderly and disabled with a voucher. 

Here's the real story that the AARP wants to get out: All Americans age 65 and up are covered by Medicare, and that won't change under health reform.

HEALTH REFORM: If Only Laughter Were Really the Best Medicine

The only thing better than having an old friend survive cancer is having him survive it with an intact sense of humor and a  heightened sense of outrage about the inequities, the inefficiencies, the downright inanities of health care in America.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wrote movingly and honestly a couple of years ago about his own experiences navigating the cancer care maze.  Now Jon's out with a hilarious "defense" of the health care status quo.  Here's a taste of his column (go read the whole thing).  At the end of this post, we'll also share an update from the American Cancer Society and the Kaiser Family Foundation on how patients and survivors (including those who thought they had great insurance until they needed it) are faring in the recession.

Go ahead, shoot me. I like the status quo on health care in the United States. I've got health insurance and I don't give a damn about the 47 million suckers who don't. Obama and Congress must be stopped. No bill! I'm better off the way things are...

HEALTH REFORM: How Industry Pledges Came About -- And Amplifying the Message

Wondering how those industry groups ended up at the White House this week with their offer of  $2 trillion in health care savings? According to the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly, it centers around President Obama's Health Care czar (czarina?) Nancy-Ann DeParle.

Eager to be at the bargaining table for this year's health-care reform debate, Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, told DeParle that the health industry was willing to wring about $2 trillion in savings out of health spending over the next decade.

"I was skeptical," DeParle recalled in an interview this week. She thought, "They probably don't even know what these numbers mean."

A few weeks later, in mid-April, Ignagni, who opposed President Bill Clinton's reform effort in the early 1990s, enlisted a hospital group and a labor union. DeParle still wasn't satisfied. "I need to see that it's more than just the three of you," she said she told them.

Over the next month, as DeParle kept a wary distance, a coalition was built and the proposal refined. Finally DeParle was sold, and on Monday she brought the group to the White House, where industry titans better known for killing health-care reform 15 years ago found themselves basking in presidential praise.

QUALITY: Senators Call for Comparative Effectiveness Institute

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) have introduced legislation to establish a public-private comparative effectiveness institute, CQ HealthBeat (subscription) reports. Many health policy experts have called for such an initiative as necessary to control costs and improve quality. The senators envision it as a nonprofit private entity, not a federal agency, governed by a public-private board. Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag has estimated that the U.S. could save up to $700 billion annually in health spending if we could avoid treatments that do not lead to the best medical outcomes.