If you're as bleary-eyed as I am by the minutiae of health insurance reform, and somewhat discouraged by the developments of late, take a look at David Leonhardt's brush-clearing column today. The House bill does a decent job of expanding access to coverage, but fails to tackle the deeper problems of costs. David has six criteria to determine whether the final bill will be better. They all make sense to me - although they all face the usual entrenched opposition. Read the whole thing. But here's one eye-opener:
Each year, about 100,000 people die from preventable infections they contract in a hospital. When 108 hospitals in Michigan instituted a simple process to prevent some of these infections, it nearly eliminated them. If Medicare reduced payments for the treatment of such infections, it would give hospitals a huge financial incentive to prevent them. The Senate bill takes a small step in this direction by cutting payments to hospitals with high infection rates by 1 percent. The House bill merely requires hospitals to report their rates publicly.
Think of it this way: America's hospitals are responsible for avoidable casualties thirty times that of 9/11 every year. Preventing that could save tax-payers' money. But the Congress seems unable to do anything about it. For me, finding a way to allow individuals to opt out of their employer health plan for a cheaper one in the insurance exchange seems to me a vital foot in the door for more competition and consumer choice.
The benefit of Obama allowing the legislature to legislate and letting this arduous process take its time is that it maximizes chances for evolution, correction, evaluation ... and improvement. Let's improve this thing as well as pass it.
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