San Francisco Chronicle Opinion Pieces Examine Hospital Cost Variations, Universal Health Care
Two opinion pieces today in the San Francisco Chronicle address problems with the current health care system. The firstfocuses on the "wide variations" in hospital costs and the second on universal health care coverage. Summaries of the two pieces appear below:
- Peter Lee, president and CEO of the Pacific Business Group on Health: Hospitals and physicians must "embrace a culture of accountability in which their payable charges, efficiency and quality are transparent to consumers," and consumers must "demand user-friendly information" on efficiency and quality of care to solve the problem of "huge" hospital cost and quality variations, Lee writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Lee says that hospital pricing variations -- the No. 1 reason behind health care inflation in California -- are often "valid," but he adds that consumers should hold hospitals "accountable" because inefficient care "translates into higher premiums," more uninsured people and cost shifting. According to Lee, "solving the problem of hospital cost variation will require participation from all parties," including consumers, hospitals, health care providers, employers, lawmakers, insurers and regulators (Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/2).
- Bruce Bodaken, chair, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California: A "deepening" health care crisis is "inevitable" unless a "new model" of health care based on "individual, corporate and societal responsibility" replaces the current "unequal and inefficient system," Bodaken writes in a second Chronicle opinion piece. The current health care system is being strained by "astronomical" health care costs, a weak economy and a growing elderly population, Bodaken writes, adding that the state government is "too broke" to "adequately" provide care for the poor and uninsured. Bodaken proposes some health care reforms, including building upon the existing employer-based system; promoting state programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families; requiring those who can afford insurance to purchase it and subsidize coverage for those who need assistance; defining a health benefits package; encouraging savings through preventive care; and establishing tax-based funding. Bodaken concludes, "Universal coverage can be attained only when coupled with universal responsibility. We all must contribute our dollars and our ingenuity to build a health care system that protects everyone" (Bodaken, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/2).
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