Opinion Pieces Discuss Whether Current Efforts To Fix Health Costs Will Produce Sufficient Savings
- David Brooks, New York Times: Health care costs have become "the crucial issue of [President Obama's] whole presidency," Times columnist Brooks writes. According to Brooks, Obama's original plan was to fund his priorities, including education and energy, with debt that would be paid off with future savings resulting from health care reform. Brooks writes that Obama's aides have been discussing "game-changers" -- such as health information technology, wellness programs, preventive medicine, comparative effective measures and altering reimbursement policies -- that would result in cost reductions. However, Brooks writes that most experts do not think such efforts would "produce much in the way of cost savings over the next 10 years" and that "nobody is sure" the efforts would "ever produce significant savings." Brooks writes that because "there are deep structural forces, both in Medicare and the private insurance market" that make it "nearly impossible to put together a majority coalition for a bill" challenging those structures, reform efforts this year likely will produce a "medium-size bill that expands coverage to some groups but does relatively little to control costs." Brooks concludes, "Without serious health cost cuts," Obama's agenda "will hasten fiscal suicide" (Brooks, New York Times, 5/15).
- Peter Orszag, Wall Street Journal: There are "significant opportunities to reduce health care costs over time without impairing the quality of care or outcomes," Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, writes in a Journal opinion piece. Orszag continues that better quality in health care "seems to be associated with lower cost," unlike in other industries. According to Orszag, "If we can move our nation toward the proven and successful practices adopted by lower-cost areas and hospitals, some economists believe health care costs could be reduced by 30% -- or about $700 billion a year -- without compromising the quality of care." Orszag writes that four "key" steps to lowering health care costs are expanding health IT, instituting comparative effectiveness research, enhancing prevention and wellness programs, and making changes in financial incentives for health providers so they are "incentivized rather than penalized for delivering high quality care." He concludes that by undertaking major health care reform this year, "we will put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path and build a new foundation for our economy for generations to come" (Orszag, Wall Street Journal, 5/15).