Health Care and Badger Sightings

Three more Badger sightings in DC today.  Patrick and I had lunch with Alexis Macdonald and Kate Nast, two Badger alumni working on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) health care team.  We met up with them in China town and talked about their work and how much they’ve enjoyed DC.  The Thai food was wonderful!

On another note, the TANF conference I’ve been attending saw one of Wisconsin’s better known professor’s today, Dr. Tim Smeedling of the Urban Institute on poverty deliver a stirring talk on out of wedlock births in America today.  Wisconsin has been well represented at this conference because of our nation-leading health and social policy innovations.  (Tim’s picture is on the right)

On another note, anyone who’s know me for a while knows I have a passion for health policy.  With that in mind, I came across this article a couple days ago on Obama’s nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid, Donald Berwick.

If you don’t know the name now, you will in the next few months, as the GOP will most likely use him to open the health care debate back up.  They’ve cited his “love for the NHS” in the UK as a negative and plan to fight him tooth and nail.  From what I’ve read, the man does not believe that the NHS offers health care perfection, rather, he admires its commitment to providing a national health system framework and universal health care coverage.  Which I feel are two very admirable things.

Other than being an unfortunate display of politics, this will delay the appointment of a man that has done much to lower health care costs in the US WITHOUT RATIONING HEALTH CARE or resorting to massive cuts in health care spending.  I’ve been reading up on the guy and he advocates for a system wide approach in which doctors work from the ground up to reduce unnecessary use of care and to reward and encourage doctors to improve when they make mistakes, rather than to threaten them with firing or legal action when they screw up, like every human does from time to time. Just because someone makes a mistake doesn’t mean they’re grossly negligent.

Here are some reasons to get excited about this guy from a health care perspective.

Finally, a quote from one of his articles that I think summarizes his position nicely

Everybody has two jobs. Their job as they know it and the job of helping make their own jobs and the jobs of those around them better.

Watch for this guy’s name.  I assure you that you’ll be hearing about him in the coming months!

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2 Comments on “Health Care and Badger Sightings”

  1. Andrew Says:

    “This will delay the appointment of a man that has done much to lower health care costs in the US WITHOUT RATIONING HEALTH CARE or resorting to massive cuts in health care spending.”

    Interesting claim. I’m actually not disagreeing, but would take it a bit further and argue that the two are mutually exclusive. To lower costs, you ration (whether intentionally through explicit rationing such as in NHS or unintentionally through market competition, where how wealthy you are plays a major role in what care you receive). UW med school had a great conference this last spring on rationing in health care with two experts on the issue– one from the UK who served in Tony Blair’s cabinet, and another who is a prof at one of the Ivies (I forget where now) who has done some interesting stuff on health care. Their basic argument was that to in order to lower costs (beyond waste, which is fairly small percentage wise– though HUGE in real numbers) and/or increase coverage, rationing is going to happen whether we like it or not, whether we do it implicitly or explicitly. I’m not sure I completely agree, but I do think there is some definite truth to the argument.

    • jayen6 Says:

      yes, I agree that there always exists some level of rationing in every system, and there always will be for the foreseeable future. The point I was trying to make (and didn’t do clearly enough) is that he hasn’t made any explicit attempts to introduce any European style rationing into the system, where you are told what kind of treatment you can receive and how much of it you’re able to have before they cut you off. He’s interested in raising quality and lowering costs through a more communal type of approach by getting physicians to work together and realize that their individual decisions, such as ordering that extra test, affect the entire health care system by increasing costs.


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