The possibilities of more affordable health care in America was the subject of an alumni-faculty panel discussion led by Wilson School professor Uwe Reinhardt on Friday morning titled, “Affordable Health Care: The Next Chapter.”
The panel consisted of five University alumni, all of whom discussed their connection to health care legislation or potential plans of action in making health care more affordable in the future.
The panel included Richard D. Krugman ’63, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Raymond J. Baxter ’68, Senior Vice President of Kaiser Permanente International; Jonathan C. Javitt ’78, founder and CEO of Telcare, Inc. and former White House health care adviser; Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin ’93, deputy assistant director for health at the Congressional Budget Office and Lisa Keels Lowenstein ’03, health insurance specialist and legislative adviser.
“We are having this discussion today because the cost of health care is too high,” Buntin said. “Ten percent of our GDP is spent on health care.” Buntin said her role at the Congressional Budget Office is to help Congress with the financial implications of health care related legislation.
She offered four possible options of lowering the cost of health care, which include shifting costs to patients by charging a higher premium for instance, encouraging more cost-conscious behavior, restructuring the way we pay for health care or combining the first three options.
“There isn’t a silver bullet for this situation,” Buntin said. “We will most likely need a combination of the three factors.”
One of Lowenstein’s main duties is to implement the Affordable Care Act and to help control the cost of health care on the side of the consumers, a task that is increasingly difficult as health care costs rise.
One of the areas in which Lowenstein suggested action could be taken is in the risk pool in the marketplace. She explained that the bigger the risk pool in the marketplace, the lower the cost of health care. “Spreading the risk will be a major part of 2014,” Lowenstein said. “If there are more young people in the marketplace, the cost will go down.”
She also discussed various cost control programs, such as Rate Review, in which insurance companies must justify any rate increase greater than 10 percent.
Technology may also be introduced to mediate rising health care costs, Javitt suggested.
“We are a country that has used technology to solve most of our problems,” Javitt said. Javitt founded the first company to have electronic medical devices to connect patients with their doctors and family.
Baxter touched on the economical logistics, suggesting ways to better finance the health care industry.
“We have a lot of waste and wasted effort in the way health care is financed,” Baxter said.
Baxter then brought up the four modifiable risk factors that account for the risk of death due to chronic disease. These include poor nutrition, lack of movement and exercise, harmful use of alcohol and consumption of tobacco.
Krugman was the last speaker.He has been internationally recognized for his work, which mainly delves into pediatric care.
For Krugman, high health care cost is extremely pertinent, as his own health care is extremely high due to a genetic disorder equivalent to hemophilia that was recently diagnosed.
“It is absolutely clear we have to maintain the lowest production cost,” Krugman said. “Through the evolution of this whole process, we will have a more affordable system.”