Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama’s Health Care Plan

Today Kaiser Network had a webcast with David Cutler, health care adviser to Barack Obama and a professor of economics at Harvard. (Kaiser will broadcast a similar discussion with McCain’s adviser Jay Khosla next week.) Cutler talked about some of the details of Obama’s plan to reform health care.

  • The plan puts a big emphasis on revamping information technology in health care. The idea is to subsidize smaller provider’s switch to digital record keeping so that records are more holistic and transferred more easily. The goal is to reduce mistakes in treatment due to incomplete medical information.
  • The plan doesn’t include a mandate, meaning each individual wouldn’t be required by law to carry insurance coverage, but the goal is to reduce costs so that individuals have options to buy into an affordable plan.
  • Although the plan calls for an investment of $50-65 billion a year at the outset, ultimately part of rising national debt is related to skyrocketing medical costs, so the hope is to reduce costs in the long run and actually save money. Obama’s plan hopes to save those with private insurance about 8 percent per year.
  • The plan wants to put a greater emphasis on preventative care. Cutler noted that roughly three-quarters of medical costs are spent on treating preventable illnesses. Changing the system to emphasize preventative medicine would require incentives for doctors to make follow up calls to patients, create comprehensive treatment, or invest in electronic medical records.
  • Cutler insists that Obama’s plan isn’t rigid because he wants to bring many groups to the table to discuss priorities and care and ways to alter the current health care system.

Many feared that health care would fall back on the candidates’ list of priorities because of the expensive bailout plan. But given that both campaigns are willing to sit down and discuss their health care plans in greater detail, it appears this may not be the case.

Cross posted at Pushback.

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