Sunday, February 28, 2010

Healthcare Reform: What Did We Learn from the Healthcare Summit?

OK, President Obama trooped everybody into Blair House the other day and I don’t know what he was expecting to achieve but unless he’s a lot more cynical than he’s letting on, I don’t think he got what he wanted.

I caught some of the U.S. Healthcare Summit on the evening news and I found it worrying for three principle reasons. First, the theatricality of it all was discouraging. I lost track of the number of copies of proposed healthcare legislation that had been trucked into the conference room by the Republicans to make some point or other. (I wonder if the environmentalists will calculate how many trees were killed to make those points.) Next, the lack of seriousness by many of the participants seemed obvious to me. Yes, there were many pious sounding talking points and other sound bites but too many participants were there only to be seen in front of the cameras. Finally, the lack of any obvious solution or solutions was apparent to me. There seemed to be even a lack of agreement as to what the problem is. Overall, President Obama’s Healthcare Summit, however well intentioned, was a bust in my view.

But what did we learn from this meeting other than how not to throw one of these shindigs? Plenty, in my opinion. However, I will only focus my comments on points which I feel are relevant to the healthcare industry.

One topic that seemed to be coming out as more of an issue is the rising cost of health care itself. One commentator this week said that healthcare costs are rising at twice the annual rate of inflation. (Sorry, I didn’t record the attribution.) Healthcare insurance providers such as WellPoint justify their recent premium increases with this argument. (See ). I’ve also noticed that the media is giving more coverage to this topic as well. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta had an interesting piece yesterday where he went through the costs of the materials used in his operating room. (See ). As Dr. Gupta shows, seemingly minor objects quickly become very expensive and it all adds up.

Different reasons are given for rising healthcare costs. Some cite the rising cost of malpractice insurance for doctors and hospitals. Others talk about the rising costs of research and development, in particular, the costs and time associated with getting new drugs through the FDA’s regulatory process. Like most things in life, there’s probably no one answer here. All the points noted here and many more not are going to be responsible.

As I’ve blogged recently, I believe that something more fundamental going on here with healthcare in the United States. The validity of the free market system in dealing with these issues is at stake here along with the government’s role in the lives of its citizens. I’ll be blogging more about this as we go through this year.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please contact us at We look forward to hearing from you.

Contributed by Guy de Lastin

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