Three reports this week about the costs of health care and health care reform caught my attention. One said that health care reform will be a sure fire economic stimulus because it will replace jobs lost from the current recession. Another suggests that a modest upfront investment will produce $530 billion in savings. The third moans that without a commitment to hard choices, we are doomed to health care spending profligacy.
John Nichols in The Nation describes a report and follow-on campaign by the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association (NNOC/CAN) that attempts to bolster the argument for a Single Payer health care system by describing its impact on jobs and the economy.
Lastly, Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post reports on findings of a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that provides valuable insights into why US health care costs so much more than it does elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, it was short on constructive “shovel ready” policies.
So how does one react to such disparate perspectives. Clearly, each study support a specific ideological slant and approach to fixing our admittedly broken system.
In my last post, I wrote that health care reform proposals need to focus on the patient side of the health care delivery system by designing systems that eliminate the cumbersome, even tortuous routes that patients must travel to enter that increasingly privileged space – a person with health insurance.
An illustrative example is the Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO). QMCSOs apply to those children who live with one parent but the court orders the other parent to provide the health insurance. The parent who has custody of the child is called, logically, the custodial parent. The other parent is called, can you guess, the non-custodial parent.
Every child support agency in every county and state in the country has a bureaucracy for the purpose of enforcing and administering QMCSOs. It does not matter why the parents are not together. Some are divorces, but some were never married. For a group of 25,000 Participants, my staff probably spends one to three days per month on issues related to QMCSOs.
Very little of that time is spent processing the paperwork. Most of it is dealing with custodial parents, non-custodial parents, child support agencies (issuing agencies in bureaucratese), carriers, attorneys and other stakeholders. In other words, our staff’s time is matched by someone else’s staff time. I did an extrapolation to the US population. It assumes our population is a representative sample of the general population. By my estimate, it is costing the United States economy $100,000,000.
Since November 4th, interest in health reform proposals has understandably intensified. I like to flatter myself that this blog might make a small contribution. But I do have a day job and so the horn I blow here only has one note; if we simplify the system we can find the money we need to cover the people without health insurance and increase product satisfaction among all stakeholders.
I am not a policy wonk who views the health care system wonderfully distilled through the glorious abstraction of statistics; nor am I encumbered by practical politics. I view the system from the bottom looking up. I have a stake in the present system, but that stake is poorly represented in these musings. I am a gatekeeper to the health care maze. In my ideal world there would be far less need for the work I am doing.
I know from daily encounters just how daunting that maze is for people needing care. I tend to demonize piece rate physicians who are too quick to deny care rather than trust the maze.
So when I read others who write about health care reform I look for my theme. On Sunday, November 23, 2008, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Shannon Brownlee and Ezekiel Emanuel, 5 Myths About Our Ailing Health-Care System. The authors are right on target with four of the five myths that they debunk. They drive home the point that we are paying a lot of money for our health care, that we are paying a lot of money for not particularly good health care, that we really are paying the price through premiums, taxes, and lost wages, and that Americans are ready for a change.