Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Obsevations from 'The Third Rail of Helath Reform: Cost' Conference

On Saturday I was fortunate to get to attend a very important health care conference that occurred here in Nashville. I knew it was going on and just thought I would go downtown and see if by chance there were any demonstrations and counter demonstrations occurring. It so, I would have joined the opponents of ObamaCare in their protest. I am pleased to say that neither side was demonstrating.

I did not think I would be permitted to join the conference but I attempted to enter and was told I needed a ticket and was directed to the registration table. I have never been shy about crashing parties and simply walked up to the table and asked to get a ticket. I simply signed my name on a log and got a pass.

The event was sponsored by the Rand Corporation and was entitled “The Third Rail of Health Reform: Cost.” It took place at the beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville. I had ridden my bicycle down town and was the only sweaty guy there in shorts and a tie-dyed tee shirt carrying a bicycle helmet. Most of the attendees, I gathered, were health care industry executives, doctors, and academics. Most were smartly dressed in business suits.

I attended the opening panel discussion and, from a look at the agenda, it was the most important of the sessions. I also got a free box lunch out of the deal and met someone I knew and had lunch with her and some of her co-workers.

The panel discussion had an impressive list of panelist: Phil Bredesen, Governor of Tennessee; Congressman Jim Cooper; David M Walker, CEO of Peter G. Peterson Foundation and former Comptroller General of the United States; Julie Gerberding, MD, Director, Center for Disease Control and Prevention; Patrick Soon-Shaiong, M. D., Chairman and CEO of Abraxis BioScience, Inc.; and narrator Leonard D. Schaeffer, of the University of Southern California and founding Chairman and CEO of Wellspoint.

I was very impressed. Phil Bredesen, our Governor was CEO and founder of HealthAmerica Corp. prior to becoming Governor and as governor he had to oversee the dismantling of Tennessee’s disastrous healthcare experiment called Tenncare. Jim Cooper is not only our Congressman but is a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management teaching health care policy. My friends in the Republican Party will probably excommunicate me for saying so, but I like Jim Cooper. I don’t always agree with the way he votes but I think he has an impressive grasp of the issues and I think he is a smart person. I especially appreciate his effort to require accurate reporting of the debt of the United States and his efforts to inform people of the consequences of the growing National debt. Unless he has a highly qualified Republican opponent, I will probably support Jim Cooper for reelection. I wish he were a Republican.

I did not know the other panelist but they were all highly credentialed. Patrick Soon-Shiong has a long string of degrees and awards and has published over 100 scientific papers and is co-inventor of over 50 patients.

This panel was not balanced. I wish there would have been some advocates for market-oriented reform on the panel. There was no one advocating obviously needed reforms such as tort reform or interstate insurance competition. However, the panel did not appear very enthusiastic about the proposals that are before us. They were not cheerleaders for the current reform proposals. I got the impression that all of these people are reasonable, sensible, rational, thoughtful, knowledgeable people. The moderator made some comments that indicated he supported single payer, but most of the panelist were not open advocate for single-payer or Obamacare. They addressed the nuances of the problem of health care cost and the complexity of the problem.

While I am an opponent of the current bills working their way through Congress, I nevertheless think that health care reform is necessary. The status quo is simply not sustainable. That was clear from the testimony of those on this panel. I want reform but I think we need different reforms than what is proposed. Those who find nothing worth preserving in the American system of health care and those who pretend everything is just find, both do us a disservice.

I am contributing money, writing letters, blogging, signing petitions, and attending demonstrations to do my part to help defeat ObamaCare, but regret that this issue has become so polarized. Politics is often a game of winner take all. I wish it were not so.

I think that a panel of smart people could be convened that could propose improvements to our health care system without destroying it. If I were appointing members to a healthcare study group to solve our health care problem, from what I observed on Saturday, I would want these people on that panel.

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1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love those who espouse "free market" medical care as if people utilize market behaviors when purchasing health care.

    Market principles dictate that I maximize my value at the lowest acceptable cost when purchasing health care.

    But if my child is ill and needs treatment, I'm not going to maximize value at lowest cost. I'm going to bankrupt myself to exhaust every available option for my child. Some adults may even do the same for themselves.

    Also, since I'm not a doctor, how do I evaluate the relative costs of two different methods of treatment and their potential outcomes? How do I know whether one is "safe and effective" and another is quackery?

    Conservatives can talk "market principles" regarding health care until the cows come home, but it will never work because market behaviors don't apply to the purchase of health care.