Coming off the heels of a week in America’s capital city, where supporters of Obamacare were discovering a looming “train wreck,” a conclave of sorts was assembled. Obamacare supporters such as Montana US Senator Max Baucus were marshalling another group of ex and deposed members of the city’s political establishment to engage in the traditional fanfare of the blue ribbon commission report.
In a Thursday afternoon Downtown Washington rollout, complete with an op-Ed in the morning’s Washington Post, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) assembled a panel of Former Senate Majority Leaders. Seen at the gathering were Republican Dr. Bill Frist of Tennesee, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, former Senator Pete Dominci of New Mexico and former Clinton advisor Alice Rivilin.
The panel’s task was described by BPC’s president Jason Grumet as “the most challenging undertaking in the history of the center.” It was was to come up with a plan centered on healthcare cost containment, and to improve the value of the delivery of health care. Many panelists noted in the afternoon session that Americans were spending the most but getting the least value.
After much brainstorming, and sometimes over picnics, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars from the philanthropy of the Pete Peterson and Robert Wood Johnson foundation, the panel settled on a 52 point plan. They believed if policymakers adopted this plan, it would reduce the rate of growth in Health care spending by $560 billion.
Starting with the 52 points, the BPC in its report reduced those down to four key items:
improving and enhancing Medicare to invent quality and care coordination reforming tax policy and clarify consolidation rules to encourage greater efficiency prioritize quality prevention wellness incent and empower states to improve and constrain costs through delivery payment and liability reform.”
As the panelists introduced themselves to the assembled crowd of more than a hundred people, a majority of them made humor and noted they were in the Medicare system. “It’s obvious to all I’m a participant in Medicare” noted Pete Dominici of New Mexico. “health care takes up one out of every five dollars”, and “we’re going to be spending six trillion on seniors – we aren’t going to be leaving them behind.”
To kick things off was Senator Daschle, who noted the panel “didn’t all agree” but his objectives in approaching the commission were “consensus” and achieving “a patient focused result”. He asserted that he “would not be associated with the think tank if no plan to strengthen and improve Medicare was not in there.”
But perhaps the biggest technocrat of the afternoon had to be former Clinton advisor Alice Rivilin who made the centerpiece of her presentation “Medicare networks” which she noted was “Accountable Care networks on steroids”. She said “Patients would choose networks” and “lower premiums would appear.” To do this “Reform of major federal programs is the key.”
After some audio visual problems, Senator Frist appeared via Skype from Princeton, New Jersey. As the only medical practitioner of the group, he noted that any solution had to take into account “patient knowledge” and his goal was “to improve both the patient and and provider experience.” Senator Frist said “Patients now have knowledge to coordinate their care … it’s what we didn’t have five to ten years ago.”
The afternoon wound down with a statement by the center director, that the plan has been both discussed with by people in the Obama Adminstration and staffers and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.