Consensus On Health Care Reform Is Needed

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Former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala on Wednesday at a panel discussion hosted by the University of Miami Wellness Center said the U.S. must aim to provide coverage for its 45 million uninsured residents and stem the growing costs of health care, the Miami Herald reports.

According to Shalala, who now serves as president of the University of Miami, if coverage is not near universal, large costs will be shifted to the insured. She noted that the country had never in its history "taken a giant leap" in any major social change without agreeing that a problem exists and how to solve it. Shalala said small steps would be helpful but larger changes are necessary. "I like [information technology]," but "we're not going to solve the problems of health care with IT," she said.

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The seven panelists who followed her also said the health care system is in need of major changes, but "there was no consensus about what should be done," the Herald reports. American Hospital Association CEO Richard Umbdenstock said he was "very optimistic" that a new administration and a new Congress would act quickly on health care because it is a fundamental element of the nation's infrastructure that needs repair. He added that conversations with 100 major groups had yielded five broad goals, such as "health coverage for all, paid by all," but did not produce any recommendations for achieving those goals.

Several speakers mentioned the importance of tort reform in decreasing health care costs, the Herald reports. Umbdenstock said the best estimates he had seen were that about 5% to 7% of costs were caused by physicians requesting additional tests or procedures to avoid malpractice suits.

Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said that he was "not optimistic" about the prospects for federal health care reform and that he saw no consensus on how to proceed on the matter. He added that state leaders should not wait for the federal government to take action but that they should rely on the private market to make changes (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 10/23).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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