Tag: OP-ED

Op-Ed: Leave it to Darwin?

Roger collierI’ve been reading some of the testimony on delivery system reforms from the House Ways and Means  Committee meeting earlier this month, in particular the lengthy statements from MedPAC Chairman Glenn Hackbarth and Urban Institute Senior Fellow Dr. Robert Berenson.  Hackbarth and Berenson are each distinguished health care figures, and their remarks are worth careful study. Together, they paint an all too familiar gloomy picture of a system whose costs are out of control, in which quality is often poor, and where there is little correlation between expenditures and outcomes. Few would disagree with the causes that they identify: payment structures that reward volume, lack of coordination among providers, an overemphasis on specialty care, and a system that seems more often driven by supply than demand. The two sets of testimony include several very important recommendations, like more emphasis on public health, dissemination of comparative effectiveness information, and higher payments for primary care (although several years will elapse before this makes a real impact on physician career choices).

Other testimony proposals, however, especially those focused on
Medicare, carry the risk of distracting us from more important changes.
Chronic care coordination (including the medical home model) has not
yet convincingly been demonstrated to cut costs. Accountable care
organizations (this year’s buzz-phrase) require more willingness to
cooperate than many providers have so far shown. Bundled
hospitalization payments make good sense but require the same kind of
willingness to cooperate. Tying payments to quality introduces
questions of data interpretation and validity of guidelines.  

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Beware the Bursting of the Health Care Bubble

George Lundberg The good news is that if and when the American healthcare bubble bursts, some value will remain. The bad news is that the annual appropriate value could actually be only about 60% of the current expenditure.

The turn of the 21st Century has been marked by the creation, expansion, and im/explosion of at least 3 significant economic “bubbles”: the huge company Enron, plus the fields of dotcom and real estate/finance. A “bubble” comes to pass when a commodity of great promise and wide applicability entices many to participate and grows at a pace that reflects hope, excitement, sometimes greed, but does not have sufficient underlying  substance to support its continuing growth.

The demise of the fraudulently inflated Enron forecast much of this decade’s  financial  collapse.  A once successful oil and gas distribution company, Enron enjoyed accelerated growth in an essential field. But it came acropper by fakery, derivatives, and manipulation, out of synch with sound principles for sustaining value. When the trickery was exposed, little remained . Enron had become a “bubble” company with a top stock price of $90 in 2000 that shrunk to pennies.  This emperor had no clothes. It was a house built of Texas sand.

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