Healthcare Cost Relief is Hiding in Plain Sight

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , April 13, 2011

I'm not going to dissect his proposal here because that has already been done by others, but I will make this suggestion to Rep. Ryan: Stop focusing on the money and think about the care.

Improving health, lowering cost, and saving lives is Donald Berwick's mantra. He contends that we won't improve medical care by cutting costs, but we will get there by improving the process of delivering care.

That message seems lost in all of the political posturing that regularly takes place around the federal budget debates.

Among the suggestions bandied about to reduce Medicare costs is to increase the beneficiary share of the Medicare Part B premium, which covers doctor visits and other outpatient services. Some think it might be a good idea to add copayments for home health services or for the first 20 days of a stay in a skilled nursing facility.

I'm sure the people who support these ideas can throw around some impressive numbers about how much this or that change will save taxpayers. But are these "savings" a Bandaid or a cure? How does increasing the cost of seeing a doctor help make someone healthier? And what is accomplished by adding copays to home healthcare or stays at an SNF?

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3 comments on "Healthcare Cost Relief is Hiding in Plain Sight"

jerry_scherer (4/23/2011 at 11:21 AM)
It is common knowledge among healthcare industry experts that that the answer to the health quality, cost, and access conundrum involves consumer engagement and a shift in focus from healthcare to health and wellness (prevention). Health and wellness initiative supported by consumer education and technology, have demonstrated far more beneficial impact on quality and cost. Why is it that articles and actions continue to focus on traditional healthcare (treatment)?

Jaded (4/14/2011 at 10:03 AM)
Whether you are correct depends on how you define "health care costs." Improving health, reducing hospital harm and delivering better quality care might - - might - - reduce overall demand. But unless providers are willing to concede top line revenue reductions it simply means they are going to raise their unit prices to offset the decreased demand.* For the occasional health care service consumer, that means more pain, not less. Secondarily, this piece begs the question of whether a billion dollar government-industry "partnership" is really the appropriate vehicle for developing what should be basic, fundamental safety (read consumer-centric) facets of care delivery. It bodes ill that 20% of our national economy rides on an industry that is so innovation-inhibited that government cash and oversight are essential to any [INVALID]really, any[INVALID] significant developments in care delivery or finance. We are a hair's-breadth away from a directed economy, whether we want to admit it or not. * I have already heard this song from providers negotiating value-based reimbursement where demand reductions are anticipated.

Barbara Duck (4/13/2011 at 2:14 PM)
The answer lies in greater use of digital literacy a there's no great white hope with budgets, it takes collaboration and Congress becoming participants in what information can be gained. In the meantime, the technology moves to Wall Street who sees value and like I said we might as well start writing chapter 2 of Inside Job. We won't get anywhere until such methodologies occur sadly. Grassley bill is a real good example of him wanting to spend when everyone else is cutting, not a clue that IT infrastructure doesn't grow on trees.




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