Audacity of spin-handlers for Obamacare

I respect Don Berwick and Zeke Emanuel as smart, thoughtful and well intentioned policy folks.   Yesterday in an Op-Ed in the WSJ they tried to position Obamacare as ‘market-friendly’.   The audacity of positioning Obamacare as ‘market-friendly’ vs. the proposals of Romney/Ryan is just so outrageous that it can’t be allowed to stand without comment.   They must be subscribing to the theory the bigger the lie they tell — the more likely it is for the public to believe it.    From a quick scan of the online comments — at least they aren’t fooling the WSJ online readers.

One should really worry about the diagnosis and treatment plan from their physician when they either don’t see/acknowledge relevant facts or miscontrue the evidence to fit their preconceived notions, as is the case here.    Let’s go through some missing facts/evidence:

  • Medicare Part D — prescription drug benefits:   the market based approach of multiple plans, with different prices/formularies competing — with the consumer able to choose the right fit for them — has been a huge success and been substantially more cost-effective than any CBO or CMS projection at the time.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans:   super popular with Medicare beneficiaries — over 12M+ enrollees.   Again a program where the consumer chooses and the market is competing for their business.    Oh wait — maybe they didn’t mention this because Obamacare takes a lot of money from this program.    Furthermore — the whole point of MA plans is to encourage a focus on value (not volume) as they say they want (and I agree is critical — see prior post) — but just not in this ‘market-friendly’ approach.
  • Their approach is totally top down (ever see a top down, centrally controlled market work?):
  • support point 1 — administrative costs lower in CMS vs. private insurance — this is a total red-herring of comparing apples and oranges — but demonstrates clear bias to government centered
  • support point 2 — experts have determined that ‘bundles of care’ is critical to payment reform and CMS will help determine what payment models will work.    The rate of innovation will be determined by CMS and is again ‘expert-centered’ or government controlled.   This isn’t the way most markets work well.    Now — I accept that somehow CMS payments have to be reformed.    Seems like ‘vouchers’ with consumers choosing and suppliers competing might be a lot more likely to succeed here — even if it is messier.
  • support point 3 — IPAB.    This is the epitome of government centered without accountability.  I accept IPAB might be better than Congress in making recommendations on how to control costs — but to position it as ‘market-friendly’ and innovative — really?
  • Ryan Voucher plan:   the authors simply assert the Ryan voucher plan is “inadequate” and imply that throwing Medicare members on the ‘private market’ is inhumane….but provide no evidence (see first two facts above).   They prefer one size fits all vs. consumers/suppliers interacting in a marketplace to figure it out and drive continuous improvement.   The IOM recently released a report that estimated 33% of today’s health spend is waste and does not add to “value” in the form of better health outcomes — that is $750B in annual spend. Here is some evidence to suggest there is no credible reason today to say the ‘vouchers’ are inadequate.     It is more like the Chicago Teachers Union saying vouchers and charter schools can’t work — despite all the evidence that they do in the communities that have tried them.

After 60 years of a largely single payer, government run system in England the Cameron government has proposed real reforms that would move their system to be way more ‘market-friendly’, innovative in health delivery and empowering of consumer choice than Obamacare.    I prefer their treatment plan tothe authors.

We need a real political dialog in this country about the best framework to get more “value” from our health care expenditures — public and private.    The framers and spin handlers of Obamacare did not stimulate that objective debate….which was a huge disappointment and a lost opportunity.

One comment

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