KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New (And Old) Ideas For Health Care Show Possibility Of Savings, Improvements

The search for reform models continues, with news reports exploring the Veterans Administration's "government-run health care," Washington State's "reputation for lower-cost, higher-quality health care," and Kaiser Permanente's new money-saving approach to heart attack treatment.

Bloomberg: "As Congress considers changing Americans' access to health care, the veterans agency, whose projected budget this year is $45 billion, is evidence that the government can provide care favored by patients that may offer savings when compared with private insurers." Though public perception of the Veterans Health Administration is negative, actual patients report high satisfaction, and some veterans are annoyed by reform opponents' claims that "the government can't run anything." Unlike the proposed public health insurance option, the veterans system delivers care. The proposal in Congress would only create a plan to finance it (Jensen, 10/2).

The New York Times: "Data from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, which studies comparative Medicare spending across the country, has long shown Washington to be a leader among big states when it comes to holding down costs." One way it achieves those results is through a Medicaid managed care program. An amendment offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., would give states greater funding and leeway to develop comparable plans. It passed Thursday by a single vote (Herszenhorn, 10/1).

BusinessWeek: "In the heated debate over health-care reform, one inconvenient fact is often ignored. There's little evidence to support the use of many of today's routine treatments and procedures." A new Kaiser study found that a low-cost regimen of aspirin combined with a generic cholesterol drug and a blood-pressure drug caused patients with diabetes or heart disease to have 60-80 percent fewer heart attacks and strokes over two years and saved hundreds of dollars per patient. Multiplied by the number of diabetic patients in the country, one estimates suggests that the treatment could save $8 billion (Carey, 10/1).

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