The AP has a puff piece on the greatness of Karen Ignagni. Well greatness if greatness is defined as doing anything it takes to screw the nation on behalf of her organization’s members, all the while telling bold face lies about their activities. But the lies of Karen Ignagni have been well documented here on THCB and we don’t need to rehash them now.
But then the AP reporter Erica Werner quotes Uwe Reinhardt and has this somewhat remarkable passage:
"Whatever AHIP pays her, it's not enough. She's unbelievably effective," said Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt. "It's just amazing what she's achieved for them against all odds." Ignagni's total compensation, according to AHIP's most recent filing from 2007, was $1.58 million, which includes $700,000 in base salary, $370,000 in deferred compensation and a bonus. Ignagni won't say how many hours a week she works. The number's so high it's embarrassing, she said.
Among successes cited by Reinhardt and others is helping persuade the Bush administration to develop private insurance plans within Medicare that are producing unexpectedly high payments for private insurers. When Congress was considering expanding a children's health insurance program in 2007 by taking money from the private Medicare Advantage plans, Ignagni worked successfully to stop it. Those private plans are being targeted again by Obama, who wants to squeeze them to pay for his health care agenda. Ignagni's industry group is organizing older people to defend the plans.
There’s lots of more puffery about how she’s good at building consensus among the diverse interests in her group. My take on that is “we’ll see”.
I draw your attention to a troika of articles, all of which show how things can be slightly misinterpreted.
First, who knew that Blackford Middleton was either the most influential health policy wonk out there, or single-handedly responsible for the Haliburtonization of health IT? If you read the WaPo article about it, it looks as though there was some kind of terrible conspiracy to impose an evil fraud in terms of unnecessary health IT spending on the taxpayer. And for example MedinfomaticsMD over at Health Care Renewal (who appears to have jumped from the position that some health IT installations have real problems to the less tenable one that all EMRs kill) is just one going loopy about it.
I've known Blackford for a while, and even though I don't necessarily agree with everything he espouses I think two things are clear. One, the studies his team did (and does) at CITL were done honestly and competently, and they in general reflect what most of us have observed–EMRs have the potential to improve care quality and save money, but that most of the money saved flows back to payers. This has been the experience both in integrated systems in the US, and in health systems in Europe. There are those of us who think that much of the $2.4 trillion is wasted and IT might be part of the solution to trim that waste.
So it was not a great stretch for the Obama team to make the logical leap that health IT is a good thing, and and that subsidies will have to be given to physicians to get them to adopt EMRs (or wider uses of clinical IT). Fer chrissakes even many on the right agree with them. This was not Halliburton sticking it to the US taxpayer in order to boost Dick Cheney's stock options. (Insert your favorite conspiracy theory about the reasons for the Iraq war here if you don't like that one)
Repeating his message that Health Costs Are the Real Deficit Threat OMB Director Peter Orszag goes into the not exactly friendly territory of the WSJ Opinion pages and explains that practice variation is unnecessary and wasteful, comparative effectiveness research is a good idea. and that changing financial incentives for providers is necessary if we are ever to get health care costs under control.
The question is, how much of this gets included in the woffling coming out of Sen Max Baucus’ Senate Finance Committee? Here’s the press release on the options they’re considering. It’s a little like Stalin in 1930 saying, ‘the people are starving, we may collectivize the Kulaks, or we may rent them their farms back, or we may do nothing, or all of the above”. OK you may think I’m kidding but they give four different options for what a public plan may look like, six different approaches to small group and individual market reform (none of which deal with the smallest employers), and nothing about Orzsag’s concept of “changing financial incentives for providers”. Apparently that’s unrelated to insurance reform. (Yes yes I know they’ve floated some trial balloons about that too….)
What worries me is that because of the downturn and Orszag shining the light on the finance issue, we may have the chance to both fix coverage and finance. But I don’t see this all happening together.
So far I haven’t seen anything to change my mind about what’s going to come out of this process. So to bore all of you still reading I’m going to repeat what I said when I reviewed Tom Daschle’s (remember him?) book Critical.
So my guess is that the Federal Health Board, if it gets established, will get defanged by lobbyists immediately. The consequence of that is that the mish-mash of an “expand what we got now” system will cover a few more people at a lot more cost (as has been the Massachusetts experience). That’s OK because suddenly we’re rich (or at least suddenly the government is pretending it is!). But in a few years the stimulus will end and health care costs will have kept going up. Then we’ll realize that due to more cuts in Medicaid & subsidies for the working poor, and continued cream skimming and bad behavior by private-sector health plans, enough people have fallen through the cracks of the incremental expansion that we’ll be back where we are today again.
CODA: Click here to have some fun as to what happened when Baucus lined up 13 Democratic economists to talk about health care to his Committee and somehow couldn’t find even one who was in favor of single payer…
It’s just possible that you weren’t glued to the France24 cable channel (yes there is a French 24 hour news & chat channel broadcast in English). Well yesterday they had a “debate” about healthcare hosted by the very smooth Francois Picard.
Jean-Jacques Zambrowski, a professor at Paris Descartes University got to talk about Bismarkcian and Beveridge-type systems (and why Michael Moore was wrong to call French & UK care as being the same). I was sitting in a dark studio in front of a DVD showing the Golden Gate Bridge. On the phone was Tevi Troy from the Hudson Institute (yes those right wingers) who basically spent most of his time agreeing with me—which I found pretty worrying!
Incidentally for a TV novice, I could barely hear the conversation, and couldn’t see anything, which meant that I never knew when I was on camera or not—so hopefully they don’t catch me picking my nose or something on screen! Here’s the “debate” and here’s part 2.
I met Leroy Jones at Health 2.0 Meets Ix in Boston. He runs the Technical Jones web site, and is a veteran of both sides of DC politics (inside and outside of Capitol Hill and the White House). We’re definitely kindred spirits in that we both like technology, politics and health care, we both like explaining stuff and we both like talking! The results of our long and enjoyable conversation (he was sort of interviewing me) are over at his web site — Talking Technology with Leroy Jones, Jr.
Anyone who’s been following along on THCB will realize that there’s a huge divide about whether the HITECH act should pay for and dictate a specified, certified type of EMR product use OR pay for data and outcomes and not specify how providers get there. The “cats” support certification and EMR mandating (more or less). The “dogs” think that existing EMRs are often counterproductive and that a mix of other data sources, processes, and patient outreach technologies will get us where we need to in terms of improving outcomes much quicker. And now there’s an extra $20 billion in the mix, just to add some fun.
Rather than write more about that at HIMSS this week I got detailed interviews on film with leading “cats”, Glen Tullman, CEO of Allscripts, and Mark Leavitt, Chair of CCHIT. And then a response from the always highly caffinated dog-lover Jonathan Bush, CEO of AthenaHealth. And no, they don’t agree with each other…..although there is some common ground.
If you’re at all interested in how Health IT & EMRs will play out, these three are must-sees. (I’d view them in the order I took them).
MH Interview with CCHIT head Mark Leavitt. (24:51)
MH Interview with AthenaHealth CEO Jon Bush (23:29)
The old adage is that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. So I was much amused by this letter from a Republican to the local paper (Salt Lake Tribune) in the most conservative state in the nation (Utah). I particularly love the line I’ve bolded below because that—not all the right wing BS about effectiveness of cancer care or waiting lists—is the difference between universal health care and what America has—MH
After being laid off, I joined the 300,000 Utahns too poor to pay for health insurance. There are 47 million uninsured Americans and millions more are underinsured. Being a staunch Republican, I always resisted the notion of universal health care. But after having spent time with my son’s family in London, I’ve had an awakening.
My son’s old back injury got prompt and thorough attention. My daughter-in-law received comprehensive care for her challenging pregnancy. My new granddaughter was attended to by skilled nurses and physicians. In virtually every other civilized nation, no one fears losing everything due to some medical catastrophe. (MH emphasis added)
Americans deserve better than what we now have. Choice is an important American tradition. Let people choose between the for-profit insurance they have and a public health-care option like Medicare. A public health-care option is the only way to guarantee health care for all Americans. Any legislation without it is just more of the same broken system.
Insurance companies are afraid of a public health-care option because they will have to provide better service at lower cost to compete. But if President Barack Obama’s health-care plan gets changed to exclude a public option, then it is not health-care reform.
Ty Markham Torrey
The Health 2.0 Meets Ix conference, will take place April 22 and 23 in Boston, Massachusetts. As part of the lead-up to the conference, which will focus on the interplay between the Health 2.0 and Information Therapy (Ix) movements, the THCB, the Health Affairs Blog and other participating blogs will feature a series of posts discussing ideas that will be featured at the conference.
The post below by John Halamka is the second in this series. The first post in the series described the background and main themes of the Health 2.0 and Ix movements. In his post, Halamka offers a vision on how best to build Health 2.0 into the health care delivery system; he will participate in a debate on this topic in Boston. Halamka also recently contributed to a Health Affairs online package on implementing the health information technology provisions of the recently passed economic stimulus legislation. The package was published in conjunction with the Health Affairs March-April issue on health IT.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen a convergence of emerging ideas that suggest a new path forward for decision support and information therapy. I believe we need Decision Support Service Providers (DSSP), offering remotely hosted, low cost knowledge services to support the increasing need for evidence-based clinical decision making.
Beth Israel Deaconess has traditionally bought and built its applications. Our decision support strategy will also be a combination of building and buying. However, it’s important to note that creating and maintaining your own decision support rules requires significant staff resources, governance, accountability, and consistency. Our Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee recently examined all the issues involved in maintaining our own decision support rules and it’s an extensive amount of work. We use First Data Bank as a foundation for medication safety rules. We use Anvita Health to provide radiology ordering guidelines based on American College of Radiology rules. Our internal committees and pharmacy create and maintain guidelines, protocols, dosing limits, and various alerts/reminders. We have 2 full time RNs just to maintain our chemotherapy protocols.
George Halvorson is the CEO of Kaiser Permanente, and the driving force behind both the HealthConnect EMR implementation and a national player in the health reform debate. I got to talk to him at HIMSS where he’d just finished giving the Monday keynote. We discussed KP HealthConnect, and the impact it’s having internally (good), why KP is making such a high-profile fuss about it (no, they’re not planning on expanding nationally or internationally), what AHIP and the insurers might face in the future (a choice between Canada and Switzerland), whether chronic care management can work without integration (he says yes), and whether the big guys will cast the smaller insurers adrift. You’ll have to watch for that answer.
Glen Tullman, Allscripts CEO is one of the more charismatic, opinionated and politically connected players in health IT. I grabbed a few minutes with him at HIMSS 09 on how he’s positioned Allscripts to be a survivor in the coming consolidation, why he likes CCHIT (he’s a happy cat!), if SaaS (and AthenaHealth) is a real threat, and whether his buddy Barrack Obama (for whom he was on the original fundraising committe) is going to whisk him off to DC any time soon….