From a roundtable discussion with the Senate Finance Committee and 14 invited participants from the health care sector, Washington, D.C.:
Yep, it was a regular Night at the Roxbury this morning down on the Hill, with all the hip, cool players in health care reform lining up to see and be seen in the uber-exclusive Senate Finance committee meeting. It was so exclusive, in fact, that your intrepid reporter got sent to the overflow room. (As usual, I brought my glowstick for nothing.)
Even from the overflow room, though, you could tell the party was bumpin’. First there was the committee’s approval, 15-8, of the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Of course, Gov. Sebelius (whose maiden name, incidentally, is the much cooler Gilligan) is the second choice after former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), whose tax…issues, shall we say, proved problematic.
Then there was the all-around love fest of Dr. Glenn Steele Jr., president of Geisinger Health System, an integrated health care system that both insures and provides health care for folks in Pennsylvania. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and his colleagues seem to think that the Geisinger model is a successful one, in terms of delivering quality and cost efficiency, and want to scale it or something like it up to the national level.
Ultimately, though, the recurring theme of participants’ testimonies and committee members’ diatribes was that primary care is the key, and primary care is in crisis. Um…YA THINK??? But it does give you hope that whatever reform bill emerges—and the timeline is still that we should see a bill go to markup in June, according to Sen. Baucus—there will be some incentives in there for recruiting, retaining, and reimbursing primary care physicians. And to head off the specialists who are getting ready to rumble out there, don’t worry: Dr. Frank Opelka, with the American College of Surgeons, made sure to get on the record that taking reimbursement $$ from Peter Specialist to pay Paul Primary Care Doctor just isn’t going to fly.
All around, a hip scene. Check back for some audio that I can’t figure out how to upload right now.