In a letter to President Obama, a group representing major players in the health-care industry offered to work together with the government to "decrease by 1.5 percentage points the annual health-care spending growth rate." It estimates that over a decade it could save $2 trillion or more.That is huge. And the $2 trillion is not bad, either.
Any serious plan to cut or even reduce the rate of increase in health-care costs is welcome. And this group says its target amounts to a 20 percent reduction from how much costs had been projected to increase. But the really important development here is the group itself and the idea that the health-care industry is willing to work with Obama.
The letter to the president was signed by the heads of the American Medical Association, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Hospital Association and the health-care chairman of the Service Employees International Union. Doctors, hospitals, medical equipment manufacturers, insurance companies, drug makers and labor - all offering to work with the federal government on health care.
The last time most of those folks got together on something was to dig in their heels and resist the Clintons' health-care plan in the early 1990s. And now they want to lead the charge?
That suggests that this time the potential for reform is real. The biggest players in U.S. health care think change is coming, and they want to be part of it.
It makes sense. By getting involved now, they no doubt hope to be able to defend their interests and have some say as to what any changes might look like.
That is just fine. Health-care reform can benefit from a healthy dose of rational self-interest on the part of industries that make up a large segment of the U.S. economy. After all, they have a lot of people who know how health care works or could work.
Some of what they propose reinforces that. In the letter, the group points to several areas for improvement, including:
- "Focusing on administrative simplification, standardization and transparency that supports effective markets."
- Cutting "over-use and under-use of health care by aligning quality and efficiency incentives" to encourage health-care providers to work together.
- Adhering to "evidence-based best practices" and "proven clinical prevention strategies."
- Lowering costs "through common-sense improvements in care-delivery models, health information technology ... and regulatory reforms."
Nothing has been solved yet, but that the industries that fought so hard against change 15 years ago now are supporting it is an encouraging change.