Will The Health Bill Bend Costs?

One cause for health reform anxiety is that no one is sure whether the legislation would achieve one of its most critical goals: lowering health care costs. Politico reports: "For all the ink spilled on the effects of health care reform, no independent group has taken a comprehensive look at how the legislation would impact premiums for the 170 million Americans who receive insurance through their employers – a population that would receive little direct financial assistance under the various congressional proposals."

The dearth of reliable data has led Senator Evan Bayh, D-Ind., to ask the Congressional Budget Office for a report on the bill's impact on employer-sponsored insurance premiums. If it comes with bad news for Democrats, it could lead to last-minute changes to the bill. Many economists are skeptical. Jonathan Gruber, of MIT, who Politico calls "the favorite economist of the White House," said the legislation "really doesn't bend the cost curve," though it takes steps in that direction (Brown, 11/11).

One step towards cost-bending "does not figure in current U.S. healthcare reform legislation," Reuters reports. "One of the best ways to control U.S. healthcare spending is to pay doctors, hospitals and other health providers a single set fee for treating all aspects of a surgical procedure or a chronic disease such as diabetes, researchers said on Wednesday." The study – by Rand researchers, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine – found combining payment for care for six chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes would mean "health care spending can be slowed substantially," but would also run into opposition from providers (Beech, 11/11).

Related KHN story: On Hill, Bipartisan Support Emerging For Commission To Control Health Costs

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