Experts Urge Health Insurance Pay Changes, Medicare Reform

Brookings institute research on health insurance pay.
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A group of academics have released a report in which they urge lawmakers to focus on health insurance reforms ranging from pay changes for doctors and other healthcare providers to consumer rebates and Medicare restructuring. The report includes some recommendations that already appear in congressional plans, as well as new ones.

The ten academics hail from the Brookings Institution, Harvard University, the University of California, and other institutions and think tanks. Their report, entitled “Bending the Curve: Effective Steps to Address Long-Term Health Care Spending Growth,” focuses on reducing the growth of health care spending while also ensuring that the quality of health insurance and care improves.

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The plan notes that the short-term measures currently being entertained to address rising health insurance and health care costs are insufficient and cannot succeed. According to the proposal, lawmakers need to make structural changes to the health insurance system and institute payment changes and incentives to ensure affordable health insurance and high-quality health care now and for future generations.

Among some of the recommendations proposed are health insurance changes that would make it easier for uninsured workers to join a pool for insurance coverage, limits to employer tax breaks for insurance, and a bidding process for private Medicare plans, which would encourage competition and make insurance more affordable.

To help achieve the plan’s goals, the authors of the study suggest a four-part strategy. One, “stakeholders in the system need better information and tools to be more effective.” Two, payments by providers must be directed toward rewarding cost reductions and quality enhancement while emphasizing improved coordination of care and disease prevention. Three, health insurance markets and government subsidies should be restructured to create competition. Four, health-care consumers should be supported in efforts to improve their health and in reducing health insurance and health care costs. This measure should include incentives such as rebates for individuals who achieve measurable health goals, such as quitting smoking or losing weight.

SOURCES:
Brookings Institution website, Sept. 2, 2009
Reuters, Sept. 1, 2009

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