Saturday, August 1, 2009

Health-care reform--what can we agree about?

I had my own "beer bonding" moment this weekend, though the beverage was water. A close friend and I--whose political views are usually so divergent as to be better left unspoken--had a civil, productive discussion about health-care reform. We brought up no positions or persons about whom we presumably disagree, but we came up with a short list of reforms that we would both like to see implemented, and that we both fear will not be (does anyone know if these are in the 615-page Senate Bill or the 850-page House bill under consideration?):
  • Put a cap on torts (as Peggy Noonan pointed out Friday in a WSJ article, this needs to be rephrased: "Stop calling it 'tort reform'; normal people think a tort is something you eat for dessert. Call it the Limiting Lawyers’ Windfalls bill")
  • Put a cap on pharmaceutical prices
  • Require health-care providers to post their prices so consumers can compare (I blogged about that here)
  • Rewrite laws so that nurses and pharmacists can provide more primary care, as they do in most European countries.
Here's an idea. What if we just asked one another, "If you were changing the way health care is delivered in the United States, what changes would you make?" That might spark a heated argument, of course--but then again, it might not. When we move away from the ideological (and often idiotic) screaming at the far right and the far left, we Americans often agree on quite a lot.

1 comment:

Byron said...

Caps on drug prices is problematic. Drugs are expensive to develop and bring to market and most will fail. It's a high risk environment, so the reward needs to be great enough to make the risk worth it. Add in uncertainty regulatory and general governmental meddling and demagogue-ing , and you need a reward higher still. To even have a chance of this working without bad consequences, the risk needs to be greatly reduced - which means, among other things, a complete reassessment of the regulation and law around drugs.

Plus, as a general rule, price controls don't work.