How the Health Care Industry Promises to Save You Money
Remember that coalition of health industry stakeholders who came together to promise President Barack Obama $2 trillion in voluntarily achieved savings over 10 years? They've released their specifics (pdf). It's a bit hard to say what the numbers would add up to if scored by an independent analyst, but the overall effect was to make me much, much less sympathetic to the health industry.
The insurance industry, for instance, is promising to address the fact that "there is currently a lack of uniformity for providers who face administrative challenges created by having business contracts with multiple health insurance plans, each with different telephone numbers, codes, fax numbers, and varying forms and administrative processes." Why this wasn't dealt with 10 years ago is hard to say.
The American Hospital Association wants to "promote adoption of the World Health Organization (WHO) Surgical Safety Checklist." This is literally a checklist in which, for instance, the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurse verbally confirm the name of the patient and the location of the surgery. Simple as it sounds, it's been proven to save lives. Lots of them. And yet it's not in wide use.
Advamed, which represents the medical device industry, will "organize our industry sectors to assure full input of our scientific and medical knowledge and expertise in measurement development for device-intensive procedures." And how, pray tell, are your industry sectors organized now?
Importantly, I'm not down on this initiative. Some of these measures might really save money. Almost all of them would make the health system sleeker, more effective, and more user-friendly. Implement these ideas! Do it now! But the fact that there is this much low-hanging fruit is troubling. But in the aggregate, the document paints the picture of an almost comically ineffective sector. This isn't just a blueprint for reform. It's an argument for reform. And above that, it's an argument for why reform should not be overly constrained by the preferences of the stakeholders. Look at the system they've built. Look at the inefficiencies they've permitted. They don't deserve a guiding role.
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