Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Feature Highlights Recent Blog Entries
"Blog Watch" offers readers a roundup of health policy-related blog posts.
Bloggers seized on a leaked memo from GOP strategist Frank Luntz on the best way for Republicans to oppose Democratic ideas about health reform.
The Plum Line's Greg Sargent said "the language echoes, to a striking degree, the same language that was used in the infamous 'Harry and Louise' ads to defeat health care reform back in 1993 -- 16 years ago. ... He recommends they emphasize the word 'denial,' saying the Dems' health care will 'deny people' treatments they're seeking." Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Program advises fellow single-payer advocates: "What is sobering is that we have to use the truth to attack both the Republican and the Democratic politicians." McCanne also agrees with Luntz's claim that the Democratic proposals are a bailout for the insurance industry.
The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn decides to parse Luntz's arguments and points to other Westernized countries' health systems to challenge claims that health reform would decrease access or increase rationing. Igor Volsky of the Center for American Progress Action Fund's Wonk Room concludes that the memo "tries to obstruct health reform by ignoring what Obama is actually offering. Instead, Luntz is attacking an easy extreme -- what he wishes the Democrats were proposing -- and pretending that the Republicans actually have some kind of health care solution (the memo instructs Republicans to focus on targeting waste, fraud and abuse)."
With words evocative of Luntz's strategy, Republican Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, writing for Net Right Nation, also uses an example of a foreign system. He invokes the possibility of rationing: "You and your doctor will no longer make the call, government will. This is already happening in the United Kingdom, where the national health care board recently confirmed a ban on three of four life-prolonging drugs for its kidney cancer patients."
And the Healthcare Economist's Jason Shafrin dug up a National Bureau of Economic Research study that clients of Luntz could potentially use to support their approach. The research indicates that health insurance markets appear to be competitive if there are at least 10 insurers, but not with six or fewer.
Of course, political strategy will shift once a bill is presented to the Senate, and cost is still a concern. Finance Committee Chair Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) indicated last week that he believes "health care reform is in jeopardy" if CBO doesn't score sufficient savings in the senator's health plan. James Capretta of Diagnosis took notice of his comment and says there's good reason CBO might not find enough savings: "In the end, CBO is very likely to deliver the same message to Senator Baucus that they have delivered to many others at various times over the years: There's no politically easy way to 'bend the cost curve.' If there were, it would have been done already." Bob Laszewski of Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review chimes in, "The only thing standing between BS reform and real reform are the men and women -- real men and real women -- over at the CBO. I'm proud of you."
Expressing a similar sentiment, University of California-San Diego professor Richard Kronick on KQED's Healthy Ideas says that "there is almost no serious discussion of ideas" that would constrain health care spending to grow only 1% greater than the gross domestic product per year (it's currently growing at about 2.4% faster than GDP). Kronick then lists several en vogue health policy concepts -- HIT, medical homes, quality improvement -- and laments, "[These] may be good ideas and might well lead to improvements in quality and efficiency, but are not likely, by themselves, to substantially slow the adoption or diffusion of new technology, or to move us much closer to GDP+1."
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf lists the names of the 50+ people currently working on health care;
- The American Prospect's Ezra Klein reports that Baucus has assigned Finance Committee members to oversee specific aspects of health reform legislation and he details who they are and what they're working on;
- Jim Gimpel of the Monkey Cage posts a map that illustrates insurance rates throughout the nation by county using U.S. Census data;
- John Goodman discusses frustrations addressing errors when electronic medical records are used for billing purposes, in addition to patient care.