Eight Health Leaders Respond to Obama's Healthcare Summit

Cheryl Clark, February 26, 2010

As he launched his healthcare summit Wednesday, President Obama said he hoped his televised effort to garner consensus for reform "isn't political theater, where we're just playing to the cameras and criticizing each other, but instead are actually trying to solve the problem."

"Here's the bottom line. We all know this is urgent. And unfortunately over the course of the year, despite all the hearings that took place and all the negotiations that took place . . . this became a very ideological battle. It became a very partisan battle and politics I think ended up trumping practical common sense," he said.

Over seven hours of broadcast, it became clear that very deep divisions remain. And it is unclear whether any package can conquer entrenched Republican opposition. Was it political theater or real progress toward meaningful reform?

We asked health leaders to comment on what they took away from the debate. Here's what they said.

Glenn Steele, MD, PhD
President & CEO
Geisinger Health System

"The debate on healthcare reform certainly found its way to center stage at Thursday's bipartisan healthcare summit. While the players may change, the concern is palpable—America's healthcare numbers are staggering.

"The American people are spending 50% more per person than other countries. Yet, 50 million are uninsured. Health-related costs are the top cause of personal bankruptcy. In Pennsylvania, insurance premiums have doubled.

"In order to protect the quality of our health services, changes must be made. The President and the leaders attending Thursday's summit appear to agree on the need to reform healthcare—and clearly have to hammer out the process.

"Solving this crisis will not be easy. We must address how we pay for healthcare as well as how we deliver healthcare. The longer we wait, the longer the system will be required to cut reimbursements instead of incenting programs that improve quality, expand coverage, and reduce costs.

"If our leaders would set an example of collaboration around health reform, then we can hope that medical professionals will soon collaborate around re-engineering healthcare delivery. Then and only then, a healthier America will be within reach."

Lori Heim, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

"Thursday's National Health Care Summit provided a useful vehicle for much-needed open discussion about the merits and challenges of healthcare reform efforts. Both Democrats and Republicans brought forth ideas that can contribute to a solution.

"The summit clearly demonstrated the intricate balance that we must strike if we are to regain control of an industry that consumes 17% of our gross national product and affects 100% of Americans.

"Healthcare reform must have three elements:

  1. "1) Everyone will have healthcare coverage, including catastrophic protection.
  2. "2) Everyone will have a patient-centered medical home.
  3. "3) Healthcare will be a shared responsibility of individuals, employers, government, and the private and public sectors. Critical factors for success include controlling costs and paying for a reformed system based on primary care, and ensuring an adequate number of family physicians.

"The summit shined a bright light on philosophical agreement and differences about the process to accomplish these goals. But I'm hopeful that our lawmakers can come to agreement and move forward.

"We agree with Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, that we must expand access to primary medical care by expanding community health centers. We agree that healthcare reform must value and support preventive care and coordination of care—positions taken by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and the proposed healthcare legislation.

"We have long called for tort reform and I think we heard today a willingness to examine additional ways to improve the approach our malpractice litigation. Even if we disagree on the amount of savings due to defensive medicine costs, we are more in agreement that patients don't have access to physicians or medical procedures due to prohibitive malpractice premiums."

James Rohack, MD
American Medical Association

"What we cannot and will not support is stalemate. Our message to those attending the summit is:

"You know full well the problems facing patients and the physicians who treat them. Focus on the provisions that improve patient access to high-quality medical care; remove barriers to care through common sense insurance reforms; reduce health system costs; and sustain the vital patient-physician relationship.

"One sure-fire way to significantly reduce health system costs is to expand and adopt medical liability reforms. Many respected budget and policy experts have long concluded that defensive medical procedures, prompted by the threat of litigation, add substantial costs for individuals, private and public payers.

"The current legal environment runs counter to efforts to improve value and appropriate utilization of healthcare services. A mix of proven medical liability reforms and new initiatives will correct this perverse legal environment, benefit patients on several levels, and ensure that injured patients are fairly and promptly compensated. It has taken far too long for the greater good to prevail over the interests of the trial bar in our nation's capital.

"Permanently repealing the long-outdated Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula is yet another way that Congress can address healthcare reform in a fiscally responsible way. At this moment, political brinksmanship is eroding access to care and creating needless anxiety for Medicare and TRICARE patients and their physicians.

Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
Twitter icon