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MEDIA ADVISORY: 03.08.10 Reporter Resources on the Obama Health Care Plan and Costs

(Garrison,NY)  President Obama released a proposal for health reform last week that, according to the White House Web site, aims to “make health care more affordable, make health insurers more accountable, expand health coverage to all Americans, and make the health system sustainable, stabilizing family budgets, the Federal budget, and the economy.”

The cost control aspects of the proposal are topics of recent posts in the Health Care Cost Monitor, from The Hastings Center. The Monitor, regularly cited as Recommended Reading in The New York Times, provides expert commentary and opinion on cost control as part of health care reform.

On costs and the current bills:

The (Unfortunate) Economic Logic of Technological Progress. Daniel Callahan of The Hastings Center writes about a new report confirming that technological progress and innovation inherently nurture cost inflation – but notes that current health care reform proposals skirts this difficult problem.

Controlling Costs: Do as Business Does. Daniel Callahan of The Hastings Center argues that running Medicare like a business, with a strong CEO and a tightly managed budget, could help it stay solvent. A provision in the Senate health care reform bill for an Independent Payment Advisory Board may provide the opening to make that happen.

Expensive Procedures Can Be Cost Effective Too. Louise B. Russell of Rutgers University argues that $300,000 may not be too much to pay for cancer surgery, when some less expensive widely used interventions, like statins for high cholesterol, may cost more to save a year of life.

On prevention and wellness:

Do Wellness Incentives Work? Adam Oliver of the London School of Economics and Political Science writes that financial incentives have been shown to improve some health-related behaviors, but not others, raising questions about the ability of workplace wellness programs to reduce health care costs.

Wellness Programs: A Threat to Fairness and Affordable Care. Kristin Voigt of Harvard Universityand Harald Schmidt of the London School of Economicslook at a provision in the Senate bill that could cost individuals an extra $2,412 for not participating in workplace wellness programs – or an additional $6,688 for people with family coverage. Low-paid employees would be disproportionately affected.

On physician supply and primary care:

How to Expand Primary Care. Barbara Starfield of Johns Hopkins University contends that to extend health coverage to the uninsured, the nation must increase the number of primary care physicians. Both bills in Congress contain provisions for doing this, but they are unlikely to have much effect, and powerful forces are working against them.

America’s Physician Shortage: Lessons from Lincoln. Richard A. Cooper of the University of Pennsylvania discusses how verbal propaganda has created a schism between primary care physicians and specialists, and it is impeding solutions to the nation’s physician shortage.

Contact: Michael Turton, Communications Associate,turtonm@thehastingscenter.org  845-424-4040, ext. 242