Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Feature Highlights Recent Blog Entries
"Blog Watch" offers readers a roundup of health policy-related blog posts.
"Doubtful" is the word from the blogosphere on yesterday's announcement that a number of key health interest groups are pledging to reduce spending by $2 trillion over 10 years.
From the left, Ezra Klein writes, "Maybe I'm just churlish. Maybe I'm getting cranky as I age. But I can't shake my skepticism about today's big health care announcement." Klein points out that some of the administration's current proposals to squeeze savings -- like comparative effectiveness research and a public plan with negotiating power -- have faced vocal opposition from several of the stakeholders. Klein says, "What we have, in other words, are promises of future cost containment that exist alongside concrete and continued opposition to the cost containment ideas that are actually on the table." The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn raises questions but adds a hopeful note: "Skeptical about the groups' motives? Dubious that, left to their own devices, they'd reduce their own revenue streams just to make medical care more affordable for the rest of us? You should be. But make no mistake: This is a big deal, if only for the clear political signal it sends."
On the right, the Heritage Foundation's Bob Moffit argues that because consumers directly control only a small proportion of health spending, "Every American has a right, no, an obligation, to be deeply suspicious of this promise of $2 trillion in savings, and what this means for impending health care legislation." Insure Blog's Henry Stern agrees but adds that consumers have an important role to play: "As we've seen time and again, there seems to be no move to address the underlying premise: when someone else is paying for our care, money and responsibility are no object. How about we take a look in the mirror, instead of at Washington?"
The Cato Institute's Michael Cannon is suspicious: "I smell a rat. Lobbyists never advocate less revenue for their members. Ever. If they did, they would be fired and replaced with new lobbyists." He indicates that much of industry is gambling that they can cut some costs because they believe reform will mean more customers and more revenue. MSNBC's Ken Strickland quotes Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who says he's waiting for more details and a CBO analysis: "When the White House and the industry put concrete proposals on paper and get a score from the Congressional Budget Office, then we'll know if the suggestions really achieve that kind of savings, and it'll be big news." Later that day, however, White House officials said that CBO scoring is only applicable to federal legislation -- not private sector proposals.
Others mused about the meaning of it all: Time magazine's Karen Tumulty says "it's a reflection that the industry wants reform - at least, it wants it on their terms." She continues, "Heading off a public plan is what is implicit in this gesture the health industry is making this morning." Bob Laszewski of Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review has this advice on whether to trust the groups participating in the release: "I think Ronald Reagan had it right when he was negotiating disarmament with the Soviets -- 'Trust but verify.'" Jacob Goldstein of the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog, while calling the development "pretty significant," warns, "Keeping that broad-based support will become more difficult in the coming weeks and months, as the details of health-reform legislation emerge from Congress."
The Washington Post chose a good day to premiere its new health reform section. The introduction describes it as a "one-stop source on the biggest policy debate brewing today." The American Enterprise Institute also has a newish blog, which focuses on issues beyond health reform. Head health policy scholar Joseph Antos believes that Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) opposition to the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance means the congressman is "not against raising taxes. He's for keeping union support in the next election."
- Andrew Van Dam of the Association of Health Care Journalists' Covering Health highlights a new Congressional Research Service 20-page primer (.pdf) on health reform that focuses on three areas of concern: insurance coverage, cost and spending, and quality.
- Marilyn Werber Serafini of the National Journal's Health Care Expert Blog wants to know if the site's commentators think cracking down on Medicare fraud will save the government enough money to justify it. Responders include Karen Davis, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), John Goodman, Uwe Reinhardt and former CMS Administrator Kerry Weems.
- Uwe Reinhardt on the New York Times' Economix uses a chart to help explain the difference between "socialized medicine" and "social health insurance."