New Health Dialogue
One model that won’t work for national health reform: Big 10 football. At least that’s what Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews, told America's Health Insurance Plans, the leading health insurance trade group, at its annual policy forum.
Incremental reform—like the kind of "three yards and cloud of dust football" played by Ohio State under Woody Hayes—won’t work in a political system that needs 60 votes to pass anything through the Senate, Matthews argued. Instead, health reform must be comprehensive—as grand as Nixon’s trip to China and as monumental as the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
A veteran commentator on Washington’s partisan battles, Matthews stressed the need for bipartisan reform. “You can’t care whose signature is on it,” Matthews said, and suggested the Democrats use the template laid out in Massachusetts and California as a starting point to win Republican support. He also issued a warning to the next administration: “If the next President does not address health care, they will be the first president to a pay a price for not doing something,” he said.
The other day, we hopped on the Red Line Metro to Union Station where the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation unveiled its Commission to Build a Healthier America to examine non-medical determinants of health in America. RWJF knows how to unveil a commission—reports in color, coffee in porcelain—but the take -home piece for us was a small map showing that in the 30 miles from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to the end of Red Line in Shady Grove, Md., the average life span of residents varies from 72 years to 81.3 years.
Malpractice reform has an honored place on the long list of health issues that Congress remains stalemated on, year in and year out. There are legitimate disagreements about the extent of the problem and how to address it -- and there are some political advantages in keeping malpractice reform on the political "red meat" menu. [slideshow] Encouraging more mediation and arbitration (instead of more lawsuits) has some appeal on both sides of the spectrum, but it hasn't gotten a lot of federal traction. One county in Pennsylvania has begun a pilot program. By teaming up doctors and lawyers to work together to resolve disputes amicably and putting the patient's interests first, hospitals hope to reduce patient anxiety, improve safety by addressing errors, and potentially cut costs. Here's an interesting account in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The big health policy difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is, naturally, the question of the individual mandate. We here at New America do support the idea of requiring everyone to be insured (with adequate subsidies for low-income people). But we are glad that the dispute is increasingly being seen as a disagreement about means, not a war about ends, that can be resolved reasonably amicably when Congress takes up health reform next year. And we suspect that outside the health care cognoscenti, most people would agree with the New York Times piece this weekend that called it a fight about "the narrowest of bands in a broad policy spectrum." We also liked these two recent Op-Eds in the Los Angeles Times on mandates. Jacob Hacker rightly reminds his fellow mandate supporters that the focus needs to be on coverage itself, not mandates. And Ezra Klein explains why we'll all still be complaining about the intrinsic flaws of health insurance if we don't get everybody in the pool. We also note that we've seen several good "big picture" pieces about the rationale for health reform, including this recent one on NBC featuring New America's own Len Nichols.
We saw a preview the other night of "Critical Condition" a new documentary that shows how for the uninsured, access to health care is too little, too late. The film will air on PBS's "Point of View" next Sept. 30, shortly before the presidential election, but before then filmmaker Roger Weisberg is screening it at town meetings and policy forums across the country. :
Welcome to our New Health Dialogue blog. Here's a bit about who we are -- and why we are here.
We are the Health Policy Team at the New America Foundation. We’re a bipartisan, multidisciplinary team who believe that with all the reams of studies and statistics about the $2 trillion-dollar U.S. health care system, two numbers stand out: