A new Commonwealth Fund report outlines a plan that would include health coverage for all Americans while saving $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
The report, Bending the Curve: Options for Achieving Savings and Improving Value in U.S. Health Spending, analyzed 15 different federal policy options that could ease healthcare cost pressures and improve quality, while providing for a universal coverage plan that would blend public and private insurance. The authors recommended, for example, a 1% assessment on insurance premiums and Medicare outlays to help finance and accelerate health information technology adoption, as well as levying taxes on tobacco and sugar-sweetened soft drinks to reduce obesity and tobacco use.
According to the report, all payers should be required to adopt Medicare payment rates and methods for hospitals and physicians, an option that could result in net system savings of $122 billion over 10 years. To achieve other savings, the report recommends limiting payment-rate updates for physicians and hospitals in high-cost areas, and replacing Medicare fee-for-service with fixed prospective payments per episode of care.
No single approach will address rising costs and inefficiency in the healthcare system, said Cathy Schoen, one of the reports authors and senior vice president of the fund, during a teleconference. It will take several approaches and well-designed insurance to achieve this goal, she said. Health spending in the U.S. is predicted to increase from $2 trillion to more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years, the fund stated.
The report was prepared by staff for the funds Commission on a High Performance Health System. The commission noted it was not endorsing any specific options on reforms, but it planned to issue recommendations in 2009. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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