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Health cost containment troublesome issue

Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:33 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Some Democrats and analysts are raising alarms that bills to reform the U.S. healthcare system fall short of President Obama's pledge to slow health spending.

Obama has made cost containment a key leg to healthcare reform. However, health economists say it isn't possible to know whether the bills would meet that goal, with many saying they doubt they would even come close, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Both the House and the Senate propose cost-saving measures. The House bill, which passed Saturday, projects $440 billion in Medicare savings over 10 years. The Senate Finance Committee bill projects about $420 billion. White House officials said additional savings in the private sector would be realized as well.

Experts, even those whom the White House consulted, said the measures represent only small steps toward revising the existing fee-for-service system, which drives up costs by paying health providers for each visit or procedure performed -- and some lawmakers are paying attention, the Times said.

"My assessment at this point," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and a member of the Finance Committee, "is that the legislation is heavy on health and light on reform."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, during a news conference Monday with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., shared her concern about the cost-containment issue. Collins said she also has met with moderate Democrats who share her view.

"I don't believe we need more pilot projects to show us that healthcare delivery reforms are necessary," Collins told the Times. "I think people are much more upset over the cost of care than the administration is acknowledging."

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