Issues and Views

It's the (healthcare) economy, stupid!

John Rother on the Number-One Policy Issue

By Mary Johnson

Bringing down the cost of healthcare should be the nation's economic priority as well as its prescription for better care for all Americans, says John Rother (at left), who has now committed his considerable professional energy and clout to the cause. Rother, for many years the public policy voice of AARP, left the organization in September to take the helm at the National Coalition on Health Care, which comprises 85 national organizations advocating for systemic healthcare reform. Rother recently talked to IGSW News about why he sees healthcare affordability as today's central policy issue.

Healthcare as Obama's signature initiative? "I think President Obama was right to take on healthcare reform first," Rother said. "It was necessary for the country." But, he said, while the public understood that the Affordable Care Act was a response to the huge numbers of uninsured, "I'm not sure they've recognized that it was also essential for the future of our economy."

Escalating healthcare costs are about the growing deficit, constrained job creation, and families who can't pay, Rother said. "For example, a new study shows that the increasing cost of healthcare has eaten up any and all wage gains of the past 10 years—either through people paying for insurance or directly for care."

Better care, lower costs. "In the United States, we pay more for our healthcare than anyone else in the world, and we're not getting the results in quality that we see in other places with lower costs," Rother said. "There will be push-back, but I know we can do a better job." He cited four National Coalition priorities for achieving that end:

Improving healthcare delivery through improved coordination of care.
Developing a new payment system that rewards providers for working together to deliver
the best care for each patient.
Relying more on comparative effectiveness studies, using the best science to identify
the most appropriate use of costly procedures like MRIs.
Engaging and empowering consumers and patients in maintaining their own health and
acting as partners in their own care.

Political will is of course essential for achieving reform, Rother said. "I think people will better see the importance of the issue as more Affordable Care Act provisions go into effect. I'm looking forward to it."

This article is reprinted from the March-April 2012 issue of IGSW News.

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