Friday, February 26, 2010

A Postmortum of the Healthcare Reform Summit

Well the waiting is over. Yesterday's much touted bipartisan Healthcare Reform Summit is in the books. As expected, there was no coming together between Democrats and Republicans. The Republicans generally stated that it was all a show with no real interest by the Democrats to hear what they had to say. Meanwhile the Democrats stated that the Republicans are against any kind of reform and have not offered any meaningful plan of their own. So where do we go from here?

President Obama wanted the summit to have full national exposure so discussions would be transparent to the American people. This is in stark contrast to his original approach of pushing through bills in the House and Senate that were so detailed and complex that most members of Congress did not really know what they were voting on, much less the public. Maybe yesterday was the beginning of real bipartisan discussion on the issues. If so, it is evident that we have a very long way to go.

I had the opportunity yesterday to hear Tom Dolan who is President and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives speak on this subject. He made two interesting points. First, the bills being presented by the Democrats are not really about true health reform but more about health insurance reform. He stated that in this country we do a great job (and spend lots of money) on fixing people who are broken. But our health statistics don't stack up to the money we spend per capita because we are not addressing many other more important issues affecting overall health. Obesity, diabetes, smoking, alcohol abuse and stressful lifestyles do a whole lot more to impact our health than a great acute care system. The Obama Healthcare Reform Plan does little to address these issues but at least its a start.

Second, Mr. Dolan makes the assumption that healthcare reform in now dead until at least some time next year. Based on the complete lack of agreement between the political parties, certainly a compromise measure is over a year away. But what about the President's threat that if no meaningful dialogue happens very soon that he will push through a modified version of the Senate bill using the budget reconciliation procedure? Most people assume this is a viable option since aspects of the Senate bill could be passed through with a simple majority and without filibusters which is now the Republican threat having 41 Senators. When I asked Tom about this, he made a keen observation. The Republicans may not be able to filibuster on aspects of the current bill going through, but they can add amendments and debate them forever thus stopping passage of the rest of the bill.

So once again we see politics at work while Medicare followed by the rest of our healthcare system head speeding toward bankruptcy. There are many issues that need to be included in the debate including expanded coverage, insurance reform, tort reform, health education (with incentives) and many others. But if we are to stop the runaway train we need to start somewhere, anywhere, and soon. Let's stop all the political posturing and get to the business of fixing our broken healthcare system.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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