It’s the morning after the big night. Soon all melodrama of the past 14 months will be forgotten, particularly the last 6 weeks (for which the current narrative is that Nancy Pelosi brought health care reform back from the ashes with an assist from Angela Braly and Anthem Blue Cross). In the end the current bill is probably better than the version that would have come from a 60 vote Senate win after conference as the abuses of the Cornhusker kickback and more would still be there. Given that the sticking points at the end were more about the irrelevancy of abortion than anything else, the more mainstream Democrats might be wondering whether this wasn’t a better way to do things in the first place, and therefore whether they couldn’t have got a public option through if the 51 vote reconciliation process was adopted earlier in the bill’s life.
But no matter, we’s got what we’s got. For now. And whatever happens I can’t see any way that this gets overturned—especially when people figure out what’s in the bill. More likely the subsidies get sweetened, and the holes in the coverage get filled.
So it’s almost time to turn our attention away from payment reform, to delivery reform. Now every time in the past that we’ve had reform or something approaching it, those organizations who have shaped themselves to operate in an environment that rewards cost-effective innovation have ended up losing their financial shirts. You can go back to Friendly Hills in the 1990s, or look at Intermountain and Virginia Mason more recently. (Which is why I’ve been ranting at Michael Porter & Elizabeth Teisberg for years)
Now as Maggie Mahar has trumpeted, there appear to be some serious provisions for pilots in Medicare payment and eventually changes to overall Medicare reimbursement. Ideas like accountable care organizations and more should start to become reality. But of course, these concepts will need considerable change on the provider side before they become reality.
So the big question for the health care system going forward is, if providers start making the changes that will promote more cost-effective care, will they be rewarded or will they be hung out to dry?