Talk about health care reform efforts has focused largely on all that is wrong with the current system. In contrast, an event Tuesday in Washington, D.C., examined best practices in ten top performing communities where they spend less and have better quality of care. NPR reports: "The health care debate in Washington has basically deteriorated into a choice between raising taxes or cutting care. But 'that's wrong, ' says Don Berwick of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. 'There's a third way. It's redesign.' To try to prove his point, Berwick, along with health luminaries Elliott Fisher of the Dartmouth Medical School, Atul Gawande of Harvard and Mark McClellan of the Brookings Institution, brought doctors and hospital officials to Washington from 10 communities around the U.
Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation to reform the Medicare payment system to reward hospitals for quality, efficient care. The Medicare Payment Fairness Act of 2009 would reform Medicare by paying hospitals for the quality, not quantity, of care. These changes would reduce the regional differences in Medicare spending by shifting the nation to a coordinated, integrated delivery system - like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other states. Studies have shown that more integrated care could save taxpayers an additional $100 billion a year. "We need to reform Medicare to pay hospitals for the quality of care they provide and transform the current health care system into one that concentrates on delivering the best care for patients, " said Klobuchar.
"Congress's chief budget analyst delivered a devastating assessment yesterday of the health-care proposals drafted by congressional Democrats, fueling an insurrection among fiscal conservatives in the House and pushing negotiators in the Senate to redouble efforts to draw up a new plan that more effectively restrains federal spending, " the Washington Post reports. President Obama and congressional Democrats have said bending the "cost curve" of health care spending is a priority in health reform, to ensure soaring costs don't become unsustainable. Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, told lawmakers yesterday that bills proposed by the Senate health committee and the House leadership do the opposite: "The curve is being raised" (Montgomery and Murray, 7/17).
On Tuesday, President Obama pitched Democrats' health reform plans to senior citizens and assured them that Medicare benefits would not be cut to pay for covering the uninsured, the New York Times reports. Meanwhile, members of Congress said they were "deluged" with constituent calls expressing concern over the future of their Medicare coverage. The Times adds: "Speaking at a town-hall-style meeting organized by AARP, Mr. Obama said his proposals would slow the growth of health spending and avoid the need for future cuts in Medicare, the insurance program for 45 million people who are 65 and older or disabled. Democrats in Congress plan to finance about half the cost of the legislation by squeezing savings from Medicare.
Lawmakers push bill to fight Medicare fraud as part of health reform legislation. Minnesota Public Radio reports: "Sen. Amy Klobuchar, [D-Minn.] says she hopes to include legislation to prevent Medicare fraud in the health reform bill being debated in Washington. Klobuchar is co-sponsoring a bill, called the IMPROVE Act (Improving Medicare and Medicaid Policy for Reimbursements through Oversight and Efficiency), that would require Medicare providers to be paid through direct deposit. Klobuchar says that would help stop sham clinics and doctors from billing Medicare for fake care." MPR notes: "Lawmakers say electronic payments would require providers to have bank accounts.
Consumers are best protected when they can choose from among a manageable number of standardized health benefits packages, and when those standards include annual out-of-pocket limits covering all services, a new report finds. In Role Models and Cautionary Tales: Three Health Insurance Programs Demonstrate How Standardized Health Benefits Protect Consumers, the Medicare Rights Center compares three health insurance programs-Medicare Advantage (private health plans, like HMOs, that are an alternative to the government-run Original Medicare program) and two Massachusetts programs, Commonwealth Choice and Commonwealth Care, that are at the center of the state's health reform efforts.