Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Saving Lives & Saving Money 3

I have three items for my write-up today on Newt Gingrich's Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare.

1.  On page 55, Newt states: "In the airline industry, we insist on safety first and profits second.  In providing care we should insist on value for the patient before the provider or insurer can try to make a profit.  Any other focus risks lives and is inherently immoral."

This should be obvious.  Unfortunately, as Newt notes and as many of us have experienced, our health care system does not run that way.

2. On page 63, Newt states: "We should incentivize providers to achieve certain outcomes.  For example, the national rate for hospital-induced illnesses is about 4%.  If Medicare had an incentive program in which hospitals reporting an error rate under 1% received a substantial bonus (say one-half the amount they saved Medicare by creating fewer hospital-induced illnesses), we would begin to see dramatic decreases in hospital-induced illness."

Although Newt is talking specifically here about hospital-induced illness, what he says reminds me of something in Michael Moore's Sicko.  Michael Moore was interviewing a physician in the United Kingdom (if I'm not mistaken), and the physician was telling Michael Moore that the government gives him a bonus when his patients are healthy.  Suppose that Medicare did that here in the U.S.: it gave hospitals or doctors incentives if most of their patients were healthy, thereby saving Medicare money.  That could encourage preventative care.  At the same time, a potential problem could be that doctors would not see the very sick, for the doctors would want for most of their patients to be healthy so they could collect that bonus, and thus they'd cherry-pick.  Hospitals, of course, have to see everyone, but, if I'm not mistaken (and I welcome tactful correction), doctors can limit the patients they see.

3.  On page 64, Newt states: "...if Congress adds a prescription drug benefit to Medicare that is similar to the House bill passed in 2002, the cost of the drug benefit over 75 years will equal the current national debt.  To pay for those kinds of programs we must transform the system."

I remember Newt saying in one of the debates that the prescription drug benefit was good policy because it saved money.  In a sense, it's preventative care: it costs less to pay for prescriptions that alleviate illnesses than it does to allow those illnesses to become an emergency.  In the passage I just quoted, however, Newt acknowledges that the benefit could get costly, and he appears to think that it could function best within a profound transformation of the health care system, not the status quo.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog