Monday, September 24, 2007

How to determine the best healthcare reform plan

There’s great debate about which candidate is presenting the best healthcare reform plan. A key issue is whether insurance companies (the private sector) or our government would do a better job managing universal healthcare. Both have been criticized for serious problems of inefficiency, bureaucracy and waste (as well as questionable practices and fraud).
 
It seems to me that the only way to determine who presents the best strategy is to compare the different plans head-to-head. The comparisons must consider costs to the public and patients in terms of taxes, premiums, deductible, co-pays, and coverage for people in different locales, who are in different economic and age groups, and who have different types of health problems and risk factors. This is a very complex issue, which cannot be understood with generalities and sound-bites. So, access to a detailed comparison grid that enables in-depth analysis is critical.
 
But even such an analysis, I contend, would fail to deal with the most important factor: The need for radical reduction of inefficiency, waste and fraud; errors and omissions; over-testing, under-testing, over-treatment, under-treatment; inappropriate care, problems with safety, quality and accessibility; inadequate wellness/preventive services; poor coordination of care; etc.
 
In other words, I assert that if all patients received cost-effective (high value) sick-care and well-care services—delivered safely, efficiently and competently—people would stay healthy longer, recover more quickly from illness, utilize fewer expensive services, medications and medical devices, and have a better quality of life. In addition, the system should give competitive advantage and financial reward to healthcare providers who get the best results for the best price. The resulting quality improvements and cost savings would be astronomical.
 
I would vote for plans—be they single-payer/government-controlled or private-sector insurer based—that return the greatest savings to the consumer through lower out-of-pocket expense (including taxes and shared responsibility payments), while providing the broadest coverage and supporting policies/plans/procedures that promote continuous improvements in quality and efficiency.
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