Weekend Wrap-up/Miscellany

  • Earlier this week, the President said that “States should make reforms to ensure that their citizens have access to basic private health insurance. It’s a dual responsibility. If we want a better system, the federal government has got a responsibility to reform, and so do states.” Today, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts initiated its state-wide universal health care reform plan known as the Commonwealth Connector , which has been analogized to the FEHB Program. The New York Times reports on the hurdles that the reform plan must cross, such as convincing younger adults to join the program instead of paying the nominal tax penalty and helping smaller businesses overcome the program’s cost. The report cautions that “Massachusetts’s model may not work everywhere. When the law passed, the state’s 370,000 to 500,000 uninsured represented less than 10 percent of its population, a smaller proportion than many states. And it does not have a scarcity of large employers, like Maine, or a huge number of immigrants, like California.”
  • On June 21, 2007 the director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) testified before the Senate Budget Committee on “Health Care and the Budget: Issues and Challenges for Reform.” On June 27, the CBO director testified before the House Budget Committee about the Medicare Advantage program. CBO cautioned that

    The central long-term fiscal challenge facing the nation involves health care costs. Over long periods of time, cost growth per beneficiary in Medicare and Medicaid has tended to track cost trends in private-sector health markets. Many analysts therefore believe that significantly constraining the growth of costs for Medicare and Medicaid is likely to occur only in conjunction with slowing overall cost growth for health care. A variety of evidence suggests opportunities to constrain health care costs without harming incentives for innovation or Americans’ health (and perhaps even improving it). Moving the nation toward that possibility—which will inevitably be an iterative process in which policy steps are tried, evaluated, and reconsidered—is essential to putting the country on a sounder long-term fiscal path. Changes to the Medicare program should be evaluated with that broader perspective in mind.

  • The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee favorably reported out the 2007 version of the Wired for Health Care Quality Act on June 27. Government HIT magazine reports that the bill would change the organizational landscape and extend HIPAA’s privacy and security rules to health care data exchanges such as the National Health Information Network.
  • On June 27, HHS Secretary Leavitt and the Director of the National Economic Council discussed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) reauthorization issue now before Congress.