Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Feature Highlights Recent Blog Entries
"Blog Watch" offers readers a roundup of health policy-related blog posts.
The Senate Finance Committee has yet to consider a health reform bill, but the arguments have already started. Last week, conservative Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska voiced his opposition to a public plan option, prompting outrage from several commentators on the left. The American Prospect's Ezra Klein wasn't surprised by Nelson's opposition, given his record: "He's been about as kind to Obama's agenda as the critics have been to the new Wolverine movie. There was, in other words, simply no precedent for him to support the most progressive element of the overall plan. In fact, there's no precedent for him to support the plan itself. The question is really whether he'll be able to force a substantially more conservative 'compromise' plan, as he did with the stimulus."
Others are still searching for validation for proposing a Medicare-like public plan at all. TIE (The Incidental Economist) of The Finance Buff asked health economics expert Uwe Reinhardt to elaborate on the way economists would determine some benefits of a public option, including complex concepts like "welfare-maximizing prices." Reinhardt responded on the New York Times' Economix, saying, "Economists really do not know what 'human welfare' actually is, and they should not pretend they do. Indeed, economists have not really understood what makes human beings tick (as the new school of 'behavioral economics' is trying to establish)." TIE, who acknowledges that "my own world view predisposes me to be in favor of such a plan," remained unsatisfied by the answer: "I am still looking for the economics argument for a public plan. Uwe Reinhardt's response didn't bring me any closer to it." In a related post, Heritage Foundation blogger Conn Carroll details what he says is the left's strategy to turn a public plan option into "single-payer nationalized medicine."
The Senate Finance Committee's memo on some health delivery reform -- which includes increasing Medicare payments to primary care physicians and decreasing payments to specialists -- is receiving mixed reviews as well. James Capretta of Diagnosis says that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is utilizing "a very questionable assumption" that changes to Medicare could drive more efficient and better health care. Wonk Room's Igor Volsky doesn't appear to share the same skepticism, saying, "Collectively, these reforms start the slow process of re-orienting the system from one that encourages providers to over-prescribe treatments, to one that rewards quality care and outcomes."
Meanwhile, Bob Laszewski of Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review, maintaining his characteristic caution toward this round of reform, is unimpressed by a reported deal between "Blue Dog Dems" and House Democratic leaders to "patch" overdue Medicare physician fee reductions for two years. Laszewski wonders: "If these same Democratic leaders are so confident we will get health care reform this year, why are they doing a deal for a two-year doctor patch? As I have been reporting here for months, health care reform is stuck in the mud over how to find the money to pay for it. That Democratic leaders in the House are willing to find a two-year patch for the Medicare docs just reinforces the notion health care reform -- and physician payment reform for that matter -- is floundering for a lack of a clear course to do either."
KQED in San Francisco has launched a new feature, "Healthy Ideas: Californians Weigh In on Health Care Reform," which is inviting commentary on four categories: covering the uninsured, eliminating disparities, improving quality and access, and slowing costs.
- Marilyn Werber Serafini of the National Journal's Health Care Expert Blog wants to know if the site's commentators think the U.S. dropped the ball on swine flu. Responders include John Goodman, Darrell Kirch, Mike Leavitt, Jeffrey Levi and Donna Shalala and Kerry Weems.
The Treatment's Jonathan Cohn discusses Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) "Meet the Press" appearance where the senator addressed health reform. Cohn says, "If Specter supports the Wyden-Bennett plan and 'all Americans covered,' that actually puts him a bit to the left of where I thought he'd start."
- Ella Hushagen of Families USA's Stand Up For Health Care addresses the recent rise of Rick Scott of Conservatives for Patients' Rights.
- U.S. News & World Report's Avery Comarow asks whether more expensive nursing homes necessarily provide better care, referencing new research on nursing home quality: "This says to me, among other things, that quality is about far more than cost."