Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stop the Politics And Deal With Rising Medical Costs Now

How many more signs do we need to see before we recognize that major reform to stem the tide of rising medical costs must come soon. Two days ago I talked about Emergency Departments in California threatening to close because of unreasonable cuts in reimbursement due to the state's budget shortfall. Illinois is making national news because of that state's huge budget deficit and providers of services to the state's Medicaid recipients are simply not being paid right now. How long can that go on before those providers close their doors? Now comes news out of Texas of a budget shortfall in the range of $11 to 15 billion. This is largely driven by double digit growth in the state's Medicaid program. Texas lawmakers had budgeted a 3.4% annual growth in Medicaid but are dealing with a current growth rate of 11%.

What is Washington doing to address this? Both sides are drawing party lines tighter than I have ever seen them. President Obama spent yesterday in Missouri trying to gain grass roots support for his healthcare reform bill by blasting the health insurance industry. Maybe they deserve it. Meanwhile the Republicans organized their own gathering drawing just as big of crowds denouncing the Senate reform bill as unconstitutional. Why didn't someone check this out before now? I don't hear anyone talking about the economic crisis we are facing as our current healthcare system implodes from lack of funding.

We are years away from a bipartisan political solution to this crisis but we don't have that much time. I see only two options in the near future. Either President Obama is successful at ramming through a modified version of the Senate healthcare reform bill or nothing happens. Which is the worse alternative?

All I know is that something has to change soon. If the Senate bill does make it through the budget reconciliation process (which is not at all guaranteed) at least we would have something in place to work from. If the bill is really as bad for the country as all the Republicans tell us, then upcoming elections can swing the balance back and get us a better reform program. But in the mean time we would start to address the economic crisis in healthcare we are facing.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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