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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Could President Obama be Serious about Cost?

In a press conference a few weeks ago when then President-Elect Obama was asked how he would be able to afford health care reform, I heard him say that cost would have to be reduced enough to pay for it. None of the commentators I heard picked up on that, but I thought the statement was very clear.

Day before yesterday, the mail included the January 19 issue of Modern Healthcare. It included comments about health care reform by five healthcare gurus. The references to cost consisted of suggestions of what somebody else should do, like living healthier lifestyles or funding more information technology or reducing the administrative overhead of insurance companies. Nobody mentioned the need for the delivery system to become more efficient.

Yesterday, I read the full text of President Obama’s inaugural address and found three statements relating to health care. They are:

1. Our health care is too costly.

2. We will….wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.

3. The question we ask today is….whether [government] helps families find care they can afford.

What I find noteworthy about this is that (a) he did not use the words “health care reform,” (b) he made no mention of the uninsured or of the payment system, and (c) all three references refer to cost and one to quality.

If President Obama is serious about tackling the cost issue he will eventually face the need for the providers of health care to get their costs under control. That will surprise a lot of people and dismay even more.

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