Monday, May 11, 2009

Manna From Heaven?

That phrase occurred to me when reading this piece about a plan to trim two trillion dollars from the costs of U.S. health care, purely by voluntary cost cutting measures:

President Obama will announce today that the health care industry will try to cut $2 trillion in expenses over the next decade to slow the rising cost of medical care, two White House officials familiar with the plan said.

If successful, the cuts could help reduce costs for families and provide money for an expansion of health care coverage backed by Obama and some Democrats in Congress, said the officials, who briefed reporters but refused to be identified ahead of Obama's announcement.

"If these savings are truly achieved, this may be the most significant development on the path to health care reform," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, which advocates for expanded health care coverage. "It would cut health costs for families and businesses, and it would enable adequate subsidies to be offered so that everyone has access to quality affordable health care."

Six medical trade groups, including the American Medical Association and America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents health insurance companies, have agreed to the cost-cutting, which could save the average family of four $2,500 in 2015, according to the sources. Health care costs would continue to rise, just not as quickly.

Are you salivating for more? I was, because I'm wired that way. But, alas, we are never told what these miraculous cost-saving acts might be. That's something for the future, I guess.

Neither are we told why those extra costs weren't already cut. After all, the market competition conservatives so worship should have forced them to be cut. So what's going on? Hmm. Note that the six medical trade groups could also be called monopolies if one wanted to be rude.

In any case, it's highly unlikely that those cuts wouldn't have any effect on the quality of care or its accessibility, and then we'll have an argument over that, too.

If that sounds grumpy it's because I don't believe that manna will suddenly fall from the sky. Cost containment is necessary, but so is learning exactly how it's supposed to come about.