The pending health care plan being debated currently in Congress lacks, according to the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf “the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount.”
Elmensdorf is not alone. The previous Secretary of Health and Human Services (Mike Leavitt) and the head of a Medicare advisory commission (Glenn Hackbarth) have both said that the plan does nothing to stop the escalation of health care costs which, once under the jurisdiction of the government, will cause a massive budget deficit which will, eventually, be passed on to the tax payers.
The problem is that all the plans offered up by Congress have relied heavily on a fee-for-services model of health care which pays almost 100% of each service, each hospital visit, each doctor visit, each test, etc. The experts are in agreement that this system encourages lengthy treatments, unnecessary testing, and excessive doctor’s visits. The system provides no incentive towards either preventing illness or even maintaining a patients health; profits are made in treating patients, not curing them. The current pending plan shares this defect with all of its predecessors.
We have suggested a solution based on a plan implemented by Safeway, which by all accounts has been very successful. By making patients accountable for finding the best deals for their health care, Safeway managed to reduce the per capita health care expenditures by 13%. It is this kind of thinking that is needed to get us both the health care we need, and also a health care system we can afford.
What is as troubling is that Congress and the President know all this. The people who are advising against these plans are people who are trusted in congressional circles or who are actually responsible to Congress for analyzing the feasibility of their plans. The advisors are all saying, “no,” and in response, Congress is barreling ahead without any sign that they hear the warnings.
Clearly, we all need health care, but just as clearly, the American tax payer does not want to be heavily taxed to pay for a system which many experts say is likely to blow the budget up like a balloon. Congress needs to take a hard look at what they want from a national healthcare plan so as to make the sort of fundamental changes that Douglas Elmensdorf is asking for. Wisdom, not expediency, needs to be their guide.