Restoring the Original Cost-Bending Vision of Obamacare

Now here’s some really good news via Sarah Kliff:

Plans to bend the health-care cost curve are pretty plentiful in the nation’s capital. Lots of think tanks and coalitions have plans to cut billions (even trillions) in health-care spending.

The Partnership for Sustainable Health Care argues it’s something different. The new alliance, which includes health plans, a hospital and consumer advocates, isn’t looking to bring fresh ideas to the debate. It recognizes this city has no shortage of think tank proposals.

Instead, the Partnership wants to start putting political muscle behind the ideas that already exist — and, after it does that, pass legislation that would control health-care costs in a way the Affordable Care Act doesn’t.

This is potentially a big deal. As readers of Phillip Longman’s article in the March-April issue of the Washington Monthly know, Republicans working with pharmaceutical and medical-device lobbyists succeeded in securing language in the ACA that all but outlawed cost-benefit analysis in implementing the law. The new effort aims are reversing some of the damage:

The group released Thursday morning a five-pronged proposal that it will now begin reaching out to other health-care stakeholders. Much of it does indeed look familiar to those who have followed the health-care debate. It proposes tethering doctors’ payments to value, factoring cost-effectiveness into what treatment plans cover and setting better quality metrics to measure what counts as top-notch health care.

Most Congressional Republicans are very likely to oppose such reforms as part of a general effort to thwart “fixes” of Obamacare, while demagoguing cost improvements as “cuts” when they actually have beneficial effects, short-term and long-term, on health care quality. Progressives should get behind this initiative in a big way.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.