Opinion

The Great Debate

CBO’s score: Cloudy with a chance of bankruptcy

Peter_Pitts–Peter J. Pitts is President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. The views expressed are his own. –

Today, the Congressional Budget Office released its latest estimate of the price tag of the Democrats’ health reform package. At $940 billion, this version of reform will cost more than the measures passed by the House and Senate late last year. More is not always better.

CBO also says the bill will reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the next 10 years and by $1.2 trillion over the following decade. That’s right. It will reduce the deficit by significantly increasing federal spending.  Only in America.

While they’re at it, they should also predict the weather for the next decade.

Let’s face it: Uncle Sam has a poor track record of forecasting how much new programs will cost. Medicare’s progenitors, for example, stated in 1967 that the entitlement would cost $12 billion by 1990. Actual Medicare spending in 1990 amounted to $110 billion — nearly 10 times the initial estimate. Oops.

Experts weigh in on nonprofit healthcare cooperatives

Reuters.com asked members of our expert panel on healthcare reform what role, if any, nonprofit cooperatives should play in healthcare reform policy? Here are their responses:
(Updated at 14:35 ET on July 30 to include Ted Okon’s view.)

Wendell PotterWendell Potter is the senior fellow on healthcare for the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin. The views expressed are his own.

The idea of nonprofit cooperatives being able to compete effectively with the cartel of large for-profit insurers that dominate the market today is so naive one has to wonder if the legislative language proposing their creation was written by insurance company lobbyists.

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.

The three urban myths of healthcare reform

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. –

When it comes to healthcare reform, as Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Three of the most common “urban myths” of American healthcare are that:
1. The lower life expectancy in the U.S. “proves” the total inadequacy of our system;
2. There are 47 million uninsured Americans — proving the inequity of our system; and
3. We spend “too much” on health care — proving the wastefulness of our system.

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