Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The CED Health Reform Plan Gets It Right Until They Have to Make the Tough Decision

The Committee for Economic Development (CED) has released its report, "Quality, Affordable Care for All."

A few days ago I asked a number of questions about just how far the CED would go toward creating a better health care system.

While I think the group has made a number of very valuable suggestions, when it comes to cost containment they don't offer more than the long list of incremental and market-based elements already at work in the market with limited effect--and which they effectively decry in telling us the employer-based system has failed.

For example, why do they think that providers would embrace government-set health care quality protocols on a voluntary basis any more than they have when the market tried to get the docs to accept them?

At the core of the CED proposal is the notion that if we can just set the market up to work the way a market ought to, all will be well. I believe in the market. I also believe, after watching what is now a $2.2 trillion health care market at work for 35 years, that the market has its limitations. The notion that this policy proposal will somehow make all the "dummies" in the market a lot smarter and more effective once the CED outline is in place is a simplistic leap of grand proportions.

The CED proposal is a business proposal made by primarily business leaders. Give them credit for going way past the slim health care reform proposals the Republican presidential candidates have released. The CED makes good suggestions for crafting an individual health insurance system that can actually deliver a health insurance policy to everyone--no matter their age or health status. They also would give everyone the assistance they need to buy a health insurance plan (albeit a basic plan)--something the Republican candidates seem afraid to talk about. They also aren't afraid to tell us that would mean more taxes.

The CED goes well past what the Democratic candidates are willing to do by pointing out just how ineffective the employer-based systems, the Democrats have built their plans on, are in controlling costs.

The CED's analysis of what's wrong and why more limited strategies like consumer-driven care and health technology are by themselves inadequate, are right-on.

In short, the CED looks to me to get the understanding of the problems and challenges right and follows that up with a creative way to get everyone covered.

But then, the CED stops at the water's edge of cost containment.

They did steal the "health care fed" term. But then they don't give it the power it really needs to manage the nation's health care money supply. Until that happens, there will be no incentive for the market to do more than fiddle around at the edges.

I guess this group of mostly business people (many of them in the health care business) just can't get themselves across that last line--granting a "heath care fed" the kind of powers to rein in the health care system that the Federal Reserve has over the nation's money supply.

That's too bad particularly since I will bet that every one of those business leaders thinks the powers the real Fed has over controlling our nation's money supply are a good thing.

You can see the full report and summary here.

Here's a plan with a real "health care fed."

Earlier post: Committee for Economic Development (CED) to Release Its Health Plan This Week--The Questions to Ask Them


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