For months the White House has tied its goal of fixing the U.S. healthcare system to an effort to mend the overall economy. Early last week, Obama administration officials connected the dots.
Small change, big savings?
Using unofficial, back-of-the-envelope calculations, President Barack Obamas team of economic advisers showed that even a minor downward bend in the rate of growth in the healthcare cost curve of 1.5 percentage points would put thousands of dollars back in the pockets of most Americans, boost the business community and greatly reduce the rapidly expanding federal deficit.
The economic benefits of slowing cost growth would be enormous, Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters in Washington last week.
Its the exact pitch many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made as they work on a legislative package that would reshape the U.S. healthcare system.
In a news briefing on the White House campus, Romer said that the moderate reduction would return about $2,600 more to families in a decades timemore than doubling that even farther outreduce the federal deficit by 3% and add hundreds of thousands of more jobs to the workforce. These numbers illustrate the crucial truth that serious healthcare cost containment is the No. 1 thing we can do to ensure our long-run fiscal health, she added.
Still, she admitted that though it may look like a low number, achieving even a
1.5 percentage point drop in the rate of cost growth is a tall order in healthcare. It will take an incredible degree of resolve among policymakers, consumers and providers to bring this about, she said.
The report came out just a day after a number of payer, provider and labor groups, in a 28-page letter, outlined a number of initiatives they would undertake to do their part in cost reduction (See story, p. 6). As a main part of that group, the American Hospital Association said it would immediately focus on taking steps to reduce the number of common infections that result from surgeries and would encourage its members to improve how care is coordinated.
The outlook for how the letter will play out in Washington is uncertain. Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, lauded the members involvement. DeParle said that they understand the drag healthcare has become on the economy and that they could do better in providing higher quality of careand they want to do better.
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