Sunday, October 31, 2004
Back to the future?
Obviously, there is no single model for revamping the nation's costly,
disjointed health care system, and Kaiser certainly has its share of problems.
But according to economists and medical experts, Kaiser is a leader in the drive
both to increase the quality of care and to spend health dollars more wisely,
using technology and incentives tailored to those goals. " Quality health
care in America will never be cheap, but Kaiser probably does it better than
anywhere else," said Uwe E. Reinhardt, an economist at Princeton who specializes
in health issues.
As one-paragraph summaries go, this one does a nice job of describing our "system" of providing health care:
Health care systems in most industrialized countries are in crises of one form
or another. But the American system is characterized by both feast and famine:
it leads the world in delivering high-tech medical miracles but leaves 45
million people uninsured. The United States spends more on health care than any
other country - $6,167 a person a year - yet it is a laggard among wealthy
nations under basic health measures like life expectancy. In a nutshell,
America's health care system, according to many experts, is a nonsystem. "It's
like the worst market system you could devise, just a mess," said Neelam Sekhri,
a health policy specialist at the World Health Organization in Geneva.
Kaiser manages quality and costs with a set of incentives for providers and patients that set it apart from the (almost) late and (completely) unlamented managed care experiment of the 1990s. It's not a cure-all, but it's impressing lots of health care professionals, as well as regulators and legislators from both major parties.