Healthcare Cost Relief is Hiding in Plain Sight

Margaret Dick Tocknell, April 13, 2011

In the overheated rhetoric surrounding the state of healthcare in America, there is one concept nearly everyone can agree on: Costs are too high. The trouble, of course, comes in finding a way to get those costs to come down.

I'm convinced we've been looking in the wrong places. Real relief from the pain of high healthcare costs won't come from financial juggling. Rather, it will come from improving health, reducing hospital-based harm, and delivering better quality care.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Tuesday a $1 billion patient safety initiative aimed at doing just that. The Partnership for Patients program aims to save lives and reduce hospital readmissions by 20% over the next three years. It also has a goal of reducing hospital-based harm by 40%. Along the way the program could save as much as $35 billion in healthcare costs.

During the rollout of PFP, Donald Berwick, MD, who heads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, talked about the systemic change in hospital processes that will be necessary to achieve these goals. He noted that the effort will require the clinicians, physicians, nurses, and hospital leadership to work together to reduce medical errors.

What struck me about PFP is how program announcements often exist in a parallel universe in Washington, D.C. While Berwick and Sebelius were touting PFP as a program made possible by the Accountable Care Act, congressional staffers were back in their offices reviewing yet another proposal to defund the ACA.

Paul Ryan, (R- WI) who chairs the House budget committee, has presented a budget proposal to reduce the federal deficit by trillions of dollars. His plan would privatize Medicare, convert Medicaid to a community block grant program, and eliminate any funding for the implementation of healthcare reform.

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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