Experts: Broad Medicare Reforms Needed to Control Costs, Foster Innovation

eAlert e5fc577d-35c2-4c05-8524-e4e3ac25241f

<p>In the latest <a href="/publications/publication/2009/nov/health-care-opinion-leaders-views-medicare-reform">Commonwealth Fund/Modern Healthcare Health Care Opinion Leaders survey</a>, experts in health care and health policy say they favor strengthening Medicare's ability to help control program costs and support broader health system reform.</p>
<p>A vast majority of the opinion leaders surveyed believe Medicare has been successful in providing access to care and stable coverage to the elderly and disabled individuals. But only a small percentage think the program has realized its potential to achieve other important goals, like using its leverage as the country's largest purchaser of services to control costs and promote a high performance health system.</p>
<p>Nearly all respondents favor expanding the power of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to put payment pilot programs on a "fast track" and to work with private payers and providers to establish multipayer initiatives. There was also strong support for creation of an independent Medicare advisory council with broad authority to develop, test, and implement payment reforms rapidly and flexibly, collaborate in multipayer initiatives, and alter beneficiary incentives based on effectiveness of services, drugs, and devices.</p>
<p>"While these responses confirm that Medicare has been a tremendous success in fulfilling its basic mission," said Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund, "they also indicate that it is important for Medicare to take the lead in developing innovative approaches to improving health system performance."</p>
<p>The survey also asked respondents about specific policy options to improve coverage. There was strong support for using Medicare's leverage to negotiate pharmaceutical drug prices, for filling in the notorious "doughnut hole" in beneficiaries' drug coverage, and for eliminating the two-year waiting period currently required of 1.8 million disabled beneficiaries before they become eligible for benefits.</p>
<p>Read the Commonwealth Fund <a href="/publications/publication/2009/nov/health-care-opinion-leaders-views-medicare-reform">data brief</a> for more survey results. And for two perspectives on the findings, read commentaries by former Medicare administrators <a href="/publications/publication/2009/nov/dont-take-medicare-granted-commentary-health-care-opinion-leaders">Bruce Vladeck, Ph.D.</a>, a senior adviser at Nexera, a subsidiary of the Greater New York Hospital Association, and <a href="/publications/publication/2009/nov/slow-spending-improve-quality-medicare-commentary-health-care">Gail Wilensky, Ph.D.</a>, a senior fellow at Project HOPE.</p>