Opinion

The Great Debate

Healthcare: Going back to Massachussets?

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

Time for a political reality check. Government-run public health insurance that competes with private plans — a Democratic dream since President Truman suggested it in 1945 — may not be dead for now on Capitol Hill, but its vital signs are awfully faint.

Of course, many proponents are hoping to use the congressional August recess to rally the grassroots and the netroots for one final push come September. And maybe that will work.

But it’s more likely that Democratic leaders in Washington will use the break to tell the outside-the-Beltway crowd the cold truth: If they want something that can be legitimately called “healthcare reform” to pass in 2009, they need to quit wasting time, energy and money on the fading dream of a public plan and instead work to get other key elements passed.

And what might those elements be?

Analyst Daniel Clifton of Strategas Research makes an educated guess. He thinks President Obama may get the chance to sign an $800 billion (over 10 years) bill that would contain features such an individual mandate to buy health insurance, subsidies up to 300 percent of the poverty limit to purchase a regulated plan through a health insurance “exchange”, and an expansion of Medicaid.
Obama might even get his commission that would try to determine what Medicare pays doctors and hospitals — now that the Congressional Budget Office has determined it would pretty much be powerless.

In determining healthcare cost, one size doesn’t fit all

Peter Pitts– Peter Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA Associate Commissioner. The views expressed are his own. –

As part of its healthcare reform bills, Congress is calling for a more aggressive use of comparative effectiveness research (CER). What does this mean? Is comparative effectiveness the same thing as cost effectiveness?

No. There’s a big difference.

Cost effectiveness research is what The United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) does. NICE uses a measure known as a Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) to assess whether or not a treatment is cost-effective or not. If providing an additional year of life costs more than $50,000 — the average price of a fully-loaded Land Rover — NICE won’t recommend that treatment.

Where the healthcare debate seems bizarre

healthcare-globalpost

global_post_logoMichael Goldfarb serves as a GlobalPost correspondent in the United Kingdom, where this article first appeared.

In America, the health care debate is about to come to a boil. President Barack Obama has put pressure on both houses of Congress to pass versions of his flagship domestic legislative program prior to their August recess.

Good luck.

Opponents are filling the airwaves with the usual litany of lies, damned lies and statistics about socialized medicine and the twin nightmare of bureaucratically rationed health care and high taxes amongst allies like Britain, France and Germany. So here is a brief overview of health care in some of Europe’s biggest economies: Britain’s National Health Service is paid for out of a social security tax. Services are free at the point of provision. No co-pay, no reimbursement. The budget last year was 90 billion pounds (about $148 billion). That makes the average cost per person about 1,500 pounds ($2,463).

from James Pethokoukis:

Why you should or should not bet against healthcare reform

jamespethokoukiscropThe chances of sweeping healthcare reform have dropped dramatically over the past month or so.  (I still think the president will have something to sign by year end.) Mark Halperin of The Page gives his reasons why healthcare reform still has a good chance of happening, though what "healthcare reform" means is left undefined -- and that is kinda important:

1. Reid, Pelosi, and the applicable committee chairs all are still on board (no one has taken their marbles and left, in part because the White House congressional affairs office has a great ear and many eyes).

2. Senators Grassley and Snowe haven't given up.

3. Rahm Emanuel knows what's possible.

4. If he can get a bill to conference committee, the press will start implicitly cheering more for success, and stop obsessing over every setback.

Is America ready for single payer healthcare?

diana-furchtgottroth–- Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. –-

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”

But America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, the bill under discussion in the House of Representatives, would result in the demise of private health insurance in America.

Government negotiations in drug prices are dangerous

Peter Pitts — Peter J. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner. The views expressed are his own. —

On Tuesday, House Democrats released the Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, their comprehensive health reform package. As expected, the proposal to create a brand new government insurance program designed to directly compete with private plans is getting a great deal of attention.

An important power of this “public option” has yet to receive much scrutiny, though. The secretary of Health and Human Services will be given the authority to “negotiate” prescription drug prices for the public option.

How will the U.S. pay for healthcare reform?

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

You have to admire the confidence. “Don’t bet against us,” said President Barack Obama on Monday about the chances for healthcare reform. “We are going to get it done.” Not only that, Obama repeated his pledge that his plan “will not add to the deficit over the next decade.”

Sunny optimism may reign at the White House, but things are a bit gloomier over on Capitol Hill. An August deadline to get a bill passed looks likely to be broken. More delays mean lost momentum and rising odds that debate over the bill could linger into the tumult of the 2010 congressional election year.

The myth of drug “re-importation”

Peter Pitts — Peter J. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner. The views expressed are his own. –

On Thursday, as part of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, the Senate voted to make us less secure by allowing Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada over the Internet. The measure is now headed to conference, where House and Senate lawmakers will hammer out a final piece of legislation.

When he introduced the measure to his fellow Senators, Louisiana Republican David Vitter described it as a “re-importation amendment.” And over the next few weeks, as lawmakers deliberate on this, you’re likely to hear that phrase quite a bit. Supporters of foreign drug importation believe that such wording makes this policy more palatable to the American public.

Obama healthcare drive looking sick

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

What just happened to American healthcare reform?

The political prospects for major U.S. healthcare reform have taken a decided turn for the worse in recent days (at least from the point of view of many Democrats). And you don’t need to be some totally plugged-in Washington insider to understand that.

Just take a look-see at the stock market performance of industry players such as Aetna Inc, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint. Shares have been trending higher of late. What’s been slowly dawning on Wall Street is that the legislative process in Washington is unlikely to produce a national public health insurance option that could eventually squeeze out the private sector.

Did the GOP capitulate on healthcare?

ambulance– James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

You can’t beat something with nothing” often passes for political wisdom in Washington. In 1994, Republicans defeated Bill and Hillary Clinton’s healthcare reform plan with pretty much nothing — well, at least with nothing positive.

Republican congressional solidarity, along with help from business group attack ads and the Clintons’ own political miscues, were enough to doom the landmark legislative effort. Back then, “No” was sufficient.

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