Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is Healthcare Reform Dead? Not So Fast Part II

In my last post I talked about the current political situation that has forced President Obama to rethink his position on healthcare reform and take a much more bipartisan approach. The recent election in Massachusetts sent a clear message that he will not have a mandate of support on this issue from the country until unemployment and the economy are addressed. So the healthcare reform train is slowed down but it has certainly not stopped. My hope is that this time we will have a chance to really shape it and address key issues before it is thrust upon us.

I had the opportunity last week to attend a meeting of the Massachusetts Hospital Association. I figure that these folks should really be in the know about what is happening with healthcare reform. After all for years their Senator, Ted Kennedy, has been the champion for sweeping changes in the healthcare delivery and payment system. More recently this state served as the bell weather for the country making it clear to President Obama that our domestic priorities were different than his. So I think the hospital leaders in this state should certainly have a handle on what is next for healthcare reform.

Ellen Zane, CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Chair of the MHA Board, opened the meeting reminding every one that even with current events, healthcare reform is not dead. It is still coming and still needed. There must be a move from the current fee for service medicine model that has so many conflicting incentives built in to it. The good news is that recent events have slowed down the process to allow more dialogue and input.

No one was comfortable with the speed at which this complex issue was being addressed. Both Houses of Congress were passing legislation that they honestly did not understand. We now have the opportunity to make sure that the 1000 page bill being discussed can be understood and as appropriate as possible. The only caveat here is to make sure that we do not waste this opportunity. Many in both Houses of Congress would like to see this issue just go away. We must make sure that this does not happen. Maybe the bills being thrown at us four weeks ago were too clandestine and comprehensive. But change is needed in the healthcare delivery and reimbursement system. We need to seize this opportunity to make well thought out, positive reform to a broken system.

Healthcare reform is not dead. It has just slowed down enough for us to make it more meaningful.

Mark Brodeur

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