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Health Care Reform vs Health Insurance Reform

September 3rd, 2009 – Last month President Obama made a subtle but significant shift in the language describing their health reform efforts. Previously, President Obama spoke of “Health Care Reform” that included a transformation of America’s out of control health care system to rein in the rapidly escalating costs that have driven up health insurance premiums. However, in August President Obama changed his verbiage to “Health Insurance Reform.”

This change in focus concerns most health care experts, because it seems to signal that Obama will table efforts to bring skyrocketing health care costs under control.

“I think we’ve lost the plot on health reform,” says David Knott, head of Booz & Co’s global health practice. “The debate started out as a fulsome discussion of all the issues, but now we’ve just punted on the affordability issue. They are kicking that can down the road.”

Without rolling up their sleeves to do the hard work to address these skyrocketing health care costs, we can only expect more of the same.  We may face a choice of higher and higher health insurance premiums if there is no change or if  a bill does pass the alternative will be higher and higher taxes to pay for the subsidies to mask the escalating health care costs.

Thus far Congress has not been willing to overhaul the fee-for-service method now in place for paying doctors and hospitals, which rewards health care providers for quantity, not quality. Given that hospitals and physicians together account for two-thirds of the nation’s health spending, taking a hands off approach to their payments doesn’t leave the legislators with a lot of other places to find significant savings.

Insurers, however, are wildly unpopular with the public, making them a much easier target.   However, if we don’t go after the underlying cost drivers that cause health insurance costs to go up every year, the proposed changes will only increase the overall costs and this will put the nation in a worse spot than ever.

Could that be a new strategy, to set things up to fail on a massive scale?  I certainly hope not, but if that were to happen the country could be painted into a corner where the only way out would be a nationalized health care system.

Source BusinessWeek Article by Cathy Arnst:  http://www.businessweek.com/blogs/money_politics/archives/2009/08/health_care_ref.html

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