In the campaign of 2008 and the first six months of 2009, the call for healthcare reform has been a refreshing and important theme. It has been widely recognized that
1. Healthcare costs are out of control. You cannot have healthcare expenses inflating at 8% in an economy that is growing in the best of times at 4%. (today, the current inflation rate is negative 1.3%)
2. 47 million Americans need coverage
3. 14,000 Americans lose their insurance everyday
4. Medicare is in peril, and along with Medicaid, the combination of ever-increasing costs are the main drivers of this government’s budget deficits that threaten our economic future.
Our politicians pledged to deliver comprehensive solutions to address these problems and they promised budget neutrality. The President told us, that health care costs are driving our deficit; that the current trend is unacceptable, unsustainable, and we are going to change it in 2009.
Now we know they did not mean it.
The President and the Congress appear to be functioning as they always do- Job #1 is getting elected. Thinking out of the box, trying to break out of the mold of old and failed ideas requires courage and political will. All seem to be missing. Instead, we get an approach that expands government. The demand for a public plan to achieve savings is silly. We already have two public plans in Medicare and Medicaid. Where are the savings from these plans? The increase of taxes, on the top portion of the country’s citizens to pay for insurance for the uninsured, does nothing to save money or control costs. In addition, there is no mention of the fact that by adding complexity to a flawed system will only cause the system to fail faster, not reform it. The CBO quickly came out and said the two current reform bills will not substantially reduce the cost of medical care over the long run.
There are viable solutions on the table, however, that do address the problem. These concrete solutions include:
1. The Wyden-Bennett “Healthy Americans Act” to make people more accountable for their own health and health insurance.
2. Proposals that remedy the inefficient and poor quality associated with the treatment of the chronically ill and excessive re-hospitalizations.
3. Promising approaches in designing Value- Based Benefits that effectively lessen chronicity, improve quality and stimulate compliance and adherence to an individual’s care plan.
Why are we not hearing about and considering these concrete approaches? Why are our elected officials so intent on a “quick-fix”? We know that a quick fix is just that. We must have a systemic overhaul. Systemic overhauls require expertise and thought, not haste. Quick fixes are the modus-operandi of politicians with eyes on the next election, not the behavior we expect from trusted public fiduciaries committed to the health of Americans and of our economy. We have seen enough of that behavior for the past twenty years.
Dr. Albert S. Waxman PhD is a scientist, serial entrepreneur, investor and current CEO of the Psilos Group, a health venture capital firm. Dr. Waxman is a frequent speaker and recent author of “Change, Innovation, and Investment in the New Healthcare Economy– a 2009 Outlook on Healthcare Venture Capital.”
If you enjoyed reading this piece by Albert Waxman, try reading “Innovation + Economics: Keys to Successful Healthcare Reform”