The System Is Sick, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

Jonathan Cohn begs Kathleen Sebelius to read Mariah Blake's article:

You might be wondering why, after all these years, hospitals don't simply turn their back on the GPOs and buy directly from companies selling better, cheaper wares. It's not clear, but the likely answer is a combination of inertia (hospitals have always done it this way, so they keep doing it) and corruption, of the moral if not legal kind (hospitals still have personal and perhaps financial ties to the GPOs). Of course, it helps that lobbyists have fought to give GPOs so much leeway--and that Congress has gone along.

But there's a silver lining here: Health care reform seeks to reduce spending, in part, by rewarding hospitals that have low infection rates. It will also reduce payments to hospitals, by a substantial amount, on the theory that hospitals can cut their prices without cutting quality. Blake's story suggests there's plenty of room to do just that.