Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Health Care Reform, Thanks to a 25 Minute Video, Courtesy of Managed Care Magazine

Thanks to Managed Care Magazine, the Disease Management Care Blog can post this interesting 25 minute interview with Princeton healthcare economist Uwe Reindardt.  Suitable for desk-bound meal-break viewing by overachieving DMCB readers, the modest and insightful Dr. Reindardt gets it mostly right:

No, the slowdown in the U.S. rate of health care costs cannot be ascribed to passage of the Affordable Care Act.  It started wayyyy before Obamacare was passed and is more likely due to the economic slowdown and increased consumer cost-sharing.

Accountable Care Organizations remain an "iffy" experimental proposition because they "don't go all the way like Kaiser."

Republican proposals to let health insurers sell their products across state lines are hardly a health reform panacea, because prices (and therefore premiums) are not a function of where the insurer is domiciled, but where the care is rendered.  Texas insurers would still have to pay New York prices.

Americans use fewer pills, occupy less bed-days and see fewer doctors, but we pay more because providers can charge more.  Despite being relatively small vs. the behemoths like Aetna and Cigna, regional hospitals have considerable market power that translates into take-it-or-leave it local single seller monopsonies.   Europeans, in contrast, have lower prices because their system is dominated by single purchaser monopolies.

We're headed toward a three-tier system comprised of 1) the indigent safety-net public programs, 2) the middle class "reference pricing" "networks" where consumers pay the difference if they want to buy up and 3) "boutique" health care for the 5%.

There's reason to be optimistic about the next five years thanks to a sluggish labor market (making it easier to impose networks and even more cost sharing) and innovation (computational capacity is putting meaningful quality measurement within reach, while techy gizmos are making self-care simultaneously cheap and fun). 

Plus, there's reason to be of good cheer.  Compared to the U.S. education and the legal systems, health care is far more efficient and consumer-friendly.  Stop beating up on yourselves.

(The DMCB didn't quite agree with Dr. Reinhardt's views on worksite wellness.  He finds the notion counterintuitive and intrusive, preferring that insurers own wellness.  He neglects to mention that the employers who invest heavily in wellness are typically self-insured and that employers have an arguable stake in improving the quality of their human capital.)

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