Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Progressives' Point of View When It Comes to Health Reform

While the Disease Management Care Blog tries to be an equal opportunity cynic and generally sides with policy underdogs and lost causes, it supposes that its conservative leanings sometimes comes through in its writing. 

That was enough to prompt a series of well-written email exchanges with Greg Brown, a retired educator from the Kansas City area. He did a great job of compactly summarizing the views of supporters of the current version of health reform. 

It seems to boil down to five main arguments:

1. Medicare and Social Security: While passage of these landmark safety net programs was likewise met with deep concerns about the erosion of liberty, their ultimate success cannot be denied.  Most of the persons who are against the Affordable Care Act are ironically happy to have the feds appropriate a portion of their income in exchange for economic security in their old age. They can't have it both ways.

2. This is not buying shoes:  One role of the federal government is to step in when markets fail, and that has been amply demonstrated when it comes to health insurance. While it's difficult enough to remember to even buy a product that you may not need, shopping for the best value in commercial insurance is practically impossible.  Proposals to expand this unworkable solution are a pipedream.

3. The public good: Keeping people from going bankrupt in the course of an unexpected illness is everyone's interest.  It's ultimately a better bargain for society to proactively manage this with near-universal insurance than to deal with poverty after the fact.

4. Purchasing power: To date, Washington DC has chosen to not flex its purchasing power with providers.  Think of how much cheaper drugs would be if Medicare leveraged this for Part D.  Just wait until the happens in the rest of health care system and how much all of us will all benefit. 

4. Status quo: Even if you don't accept the track record of Medicare, the realities of buying insurance, the merits of a public good and the advantages of purchasing power, the status quo has led the U.S., compared to the rest of the developed world, to be a unsustainable per-capita cost outlier.  Something has to change. and theACA is doing just that.

I am not an expert by any stretch. I am just an interested layman. I really wish Obama had pushed for a single payer or at least a strong government alternative delivery system. But here we are and as imperfect as it is, it is the best thing I see on the horizon right now. It does at least attempt some cost controls, it broadens access, and it may lead to better quality with a focus on health outcomes rather than billable procedures. At least it attempts to address all three.

Image from Wikipedia

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