Consumer-Driven Prescriptions for Health Reform

October 2, 2009 12:29:15 PM PDT
On October 5, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, will launch a TV campaign calling on Congress to fix our broken health care system. On that same Monday morning, Jim Guest, President and CEO of Consumers Union, will be available live via satellite from our headquarters in Yonkers, New York, to discuss health care reform measures that will matter most to consumers. Guest will also share the results of a new national poll gauging the impact of rising health costs on consumers.

Today Consumer Reports is unveiling a new health care poll that illustrates just how severely consumers are being affected by rising health costs. This is part of an ongoing effort to take the pulse of consumers. In fact last summer, CR sent an RV bus across the country to seek out Americans and their stories as they relate to health care. We are joined this morning by Jim Guest, president and CEO, of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, to discuss the poll and the organization's take on which health reform measures being looked at by Congress are going to make the most difference to consumers.

Several key prescriptions for reform are summarized below:

* Reform should reward great care, not overtreatment

Less is more when it comes to health care. Guest will explain how our health care system is biased towards overtreatment. That's because today, insurers pay a fee for every test, pill, consultation, and procedure, which means that providers get paid more when they ramp up tests and treatments. Under patient-centered reform, which Consumers Union embraces, doctors, hospitals and labs would earn a combined flat fee.

* Reform should make insurance simple with an insurance exchange

Consumers Union favors the creation of a National Health Insurance Exchange, which would function like a big insurance store with sliding scale subsidies based on income to help make insurance affordable. This would put simple, affordable coverage within reach of every family while providing a standard set of comprehensive protections.

* Reform should make it easier to get information about quality

A victim of a hospital acquired infection told CU that her midsection was so ravaged that it looked as if it had been snapped in half by a shark. Hospital acquired infections are all too common. Consumers Union believes that reform should make it simple for people to get information about their hospital's infection rates and that a national law requiring hospitals to report this information is way overdue. To date, most states still allow doctors to shield a history of malpractice settlements-this needs to be addressed as well.

* Reform should cover everyone-even the sick

Insurers today typically refuse individual insurance to anyone with a chronic condition or serious past illness. Consumers Union thinks it's an outrage that those who are most sick have the hardest time getting and keeping insurance. But the fix can't be one-sided. Here's the challenge: If insurers had to accept everyone, and individuals had the liberty to choose whether or not to buy, people might postpone until they got sick. That would send the price of insurance through the roof. A fair solution would be to couple this reform with a rule requiring everyone to have coverage. Those with good employer-based insurance could keep it. Others could buy it an affordable price through the insurance exchange described above.

More details about CU's prescriptions for reform are available on request or online at: www.consumerreports.org/health/insurance/health-care-reform/overview/health-care-reform-ov.htm


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