Friday, December 5, 2008
Senator Daschle To Lead Health Care Reform
President-elect Barack Obama, along with his newly appointed Heath and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Senator Tom Daschle, have announced they will overhaul the US health care system. Daschle is talking about Obama’s promise to expand insurance coverage, improve quality and reduce cost as a prime goal for his new administration.
Daschle spoke Friday in Denver and assured the audience that despite the economic crisis, President-elect Obama plans to focus on health as a top priority. Mr. Daschle believes the economic health of the United States is directly related to our ability to reform our health care system.
The Obama transition team has posted a website, Change.gov, and they are soliciting comments from consumers and experts across the nation. The site has posted videos that describe how Senator Daschle, the leader of the Health Policy Team, plans to tackle health care. They are inviting Americans to post their stories, experiences and ideas and their first goal is to “listen” and get input into the problem.
Senator Daschle promises an open and transparent process, but details of what might be coming were scant. As head of the HHS, Mr. Daschle will have responsibility for 11 agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The pundits and naysayers are already active on the blogs and opinion pages in saying health reform is impossible and will lead the United States into further economic ruin. They cannot get past the fact that “Health Care Reform” does not equate to “Government Run Healthcare”. Every developed Nation has lower costs and better quality outcomes than the United States and they all utilize private insurance along with universal coverage for all citizens. The private sector should be a part of the health care puzzle but strong regulations are needed to ensure affordability and elimination of unfair underwriting and cherry picking.
Unregulated capitalism leads to greed and corruption. We have seen that in the banking industry and it is prevalent in the health industry too. Our incentives are designed to reward unnecessary care, waste, duplication and unproven technology. We have no policy for preventive care, primary care and end of life care and the patient is often far removed from the actual costs involved in health spending.
Expanding Medicare is not the solution to our problems. Medicare also rewards waste, duplication, unnecessary care with payment policies that say, “More is better” and “get all you can because it is free.” Medicare is overregulated, driving up the cost of care by providers. The insurance industry is under regulated, which allows obscene profits, denials of care and leaves millions of Americans unable to afford insurance coverage at all.
President Obama and Senator Daschle would be wise to pay attention to every detail of health care and rebuild from the bottom up. This will include revamping medical education, Medicare and Medicaid payment reform, taking on the pharmaceutical and insurance lobby, addressing the shortage of primary care and designing systems that shore up health care professionals and taking on malpractice reform and tort laws. They will be facing powerful interests that are against change and have a huge stake in keeping their profitable system going as long as possible.
No one said it would be easy. We’ve talked about the problem long enough and now it is time to do the hard work that will require more than lip service. The solutions will require Obama and his team to stay on track and provide the leadership for a long and hard struggle for change.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 10:48 PM