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Obama Health Reform Plans

Flashpoints

March 23, 2009

Since President Barack Obama unveiled his federal budget proposal on February 26, news coverage of the administration has focused largely on its reaction to the ongoing economic crisis. The president and his top officials have made clear, however, that they are also pressing ahead with other big plans, the first of which is likely to be health care reform. On March 5, the president convened a summit on health reform that included the chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association, along with other medical advocacy and insurance industry officials and several members of Congress.

The Obama administration has already indicated a few of the steps it wants to take to reform the health care system. First, its proposed budget sets aside $634 billion for a fund to expand access to health care — presumably through tax breaks, subsidies, or access to government-run insurance. The American Diabetes Association calls the fund “a crucial first step toward positive change in reforming the existing health system.” It would be paid for by limiting tax deductions for high-income earners; by requiring competitive bidding among private Medicare Advantage Plans, reducing the amount insurers are paid by the government to provide care; and by making a variety of smaller cuts and changes to Medicare and Medicaid.

Administration officials have also suggested a complete overhaul of how doctors are paid through Medicare — a program that covers millions of people with diabetes ages 65 and over. Currently, Medicare pays doctors a fee for each patient visit and for every procedure performed; an alternative could be to pay doctors a set amount for the entire treatment of a patient based on his medical condition. Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, says in an American Medical News article that the goal is to establish “a better system of providing incentives for doctors to provide high-quality care rather than just more care.” (Read the article here.)

What do you think of the administration’s suggestions for paying for expanded health care? What else, if anything, should the government do either to limit health spending or to raise more money for insurance coverage? Leave a comment below!

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