Still, yesterday’s announcement was big news, and the actors got the applause they sought. The Spanish language station Univision called the announcement “historic,” the same term the President used. USA Today’s story was upbeat, giving AHIP president Karen Ignani the last word and letting her spread the message her group has been peddling for months: “Cost savings of this magnitude could go a long way toward ensuring that every American has access to affordable, quality coverage.” While the President and the industry were playing to the crowd, a senior administration official was more honest, telling Ezra Klein at The American Prospect’s blog: “This is a commitment, not a plan.”
Although most journalists understood that the gesture had no teeth, they didn’t address the touchier subject of real cost containment, like capping spending in various health care sectors. These groups—the docs, the hospitals, the drug companies—would wage a holy war against such controls, which is why the pols aren’t pushing them.
So instead we urge the media to strike out on their own and use the industry letter as a departure point for exploring some real cost containment questions, and the disconnect between reality and a PR stunt.
• Will the SEIU really tell nursing homes and hospitals to pay its members less? That’s hardly a recipe for organizing workers.
• How does this gesture square with the AMA’s current drive to make sure doctors don’t get the large cuts in their fees scheduled for next year? The fee cuts were part of past government attempts to slow the spending on doctor care in the Medicare program, but docs don’t want to lose the income.
• Will big PhRMA continue to increase costs of brand name drugs to compensate for lost revenue from greater use of generics?
• How do increased costs generated by the hospital industry’s building spree, the biggest in decades, mesh with yesterday’s letter?
• Will the medical tech industry stop pressuring Congress to intervene each time Medicare says it won’t pay for this treatment or that because the evidence is not there or is unclear?
Campaign Desk would like to see some answers.