Friday, May 25, 2007

Hillary Clinton Outlines the First Elements of Her Health Care Reform Plan

Hillary Clinton took the first steps in outlining her health care reform platform this week. This time focusing on the underlying problem in the health care system--costs.

They were just first steps, fairly vague and hardly controversial.

We hear that she will deliver two more speeches in the future outlining her thinking on quality and insurance coverage.

This is how Mrs. Clinton says she would tackle health care costs:
  • A prevention initiative focusing on preventable diseases such as diabetes.
  • Modernizing health care records through computerization.
  • Overhauling health care for the chronically ill who account for two-thirds of costs.
  • "Ending insurance discrimination" by covering people with preexisting conditions.
  • Creating a "best practices institute" to establish standards of care.
  • Legalizing prescription drug reimportation and requiring Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.
  • Implementing "common sense" changes to the medical malpractice system.
On their face, most, if not all, are all fairly non-controversial in great part because Mrs. Clinton has left out the details.

For example, under her Medicare drug negotiation provision, will Senator Clinton allow Medicare to remove a drug from coverage if the drug company does not give her a low price?

She calls for the ending of "insurance discrimination" by covering people with preexisting conditions. I don't know any way to do that without also creating a universal coverage system so consumers can't wait until they are sick before purchasing coverage. Just how will she accomplish this?

She would implement "common sense" changes to the medical malpractice system. This is usually code for supporting a medmal system friendly to the trial lawyers.

The point is that her fairly vague outline leaves us with more questions than answers.

While her cost platform also contains a number of items most people in the health care policy business would consider constructive--such as computerizing medical records--it is not at all clear that her plans to reduce costs have much in real teeth. This list could probably be characterized as cost containment "lite."

I hope a comprehensive health reform plan document will eventually be forthcoming from Mrs. Clinton detailing just what she would do--just as we should expect that from all of the candidates.

I will also be looking for some teeth in her cost containment strategy.
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