The Way Forward

This week's question for the Washington Post Health Care Rx blog was:


In a Feb. 2 conference call, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked about starting small. She indicated she wants the House to vote on elements of health-care reform, such as repeal of McCarran-Ferguson Act, which exempts insurance companies from antitrust laws. Is this a smart strategy or just political show?


My response, The Way Forward, below:


It seems like this is more of a move to revive the momentum for larger health reform. The Senate can't pass a repeal of McCarran-Ferguson and in the grand scheme of things, it's hard to see what the practical implication of this would be on improving health outcomes, increasing access, or slowing skyrocketing costs.


While some may think that the Massachusetts election has caused health-care reform to grind to a halt, I think we need to treat this as an opportunity to take stock of what we've learned and what we want reform to achieve. At the end of the day, citizens are the ones responsible for their health - they make decisions every day that affect their own health and can increase costs to the entire health system. Reform has to be about empowering consumers to understand and take charge of their health and we need a system that will allow that to happen.

A thoughtful commentary on a path forward is the Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act. It is, by definition, bipartisan and takes a big step forward by separating health insurance from employment, which will guarantee that individuals will not lose their insurance even if they change or lose their jobs. Most importantly, it will encourage new innovation in the health insurance industry. The bill provides some solid thinking and solutions to improve outcomes by focusing on prevention, wellness and disease management, and tying accountability and incentives appropriately.

By creating a system driven by innovation with consumers at the center (versus providers) we can move forward with meaningful change.

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