Will Social Networks Become A Foundation Of Effective Health Systems?

The desire to be touched by and connected with others is among our most primal and, until recently, our most untapped qualities. There have always been powerful signs of it. Those of us who remember exchanging letters with distant friends and family know the palpable anticipation when a letter arrived.

Years ago I visited the senior center at Pan American Hospital in Miami, an institution beloved by the “abuelos” (grandparents), mostly elderly immigrant Cubans who had fled Castro and settled in South Florida. At the time, it seemed curious. Maybe a hundred Cuban seniors were sitting, chatting, sipping coffee, playing cards and dominoes, dancing, in a community center sponsored and maintained by the hospital. Occasionally, but by no means each time they visited the center, one or two would leave to go to a doctor’s appointment. For most, it was just a place to spend a few hours and maybe the day.

Continue reading “Will Social Networks Become A Foundation Of Effective Health Systems?”

Why Context and Relevance Matter to Health Data Computability

DAVID C. KIBBE

In a December 8 report, “Realizing the Full Potential of Health Information Technology to Improve Healthcare for Americans: The Path Forward,” the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) urgently recommend departing from much current HIT practice in America’s hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, labs, and patient’s homes. PCAST calls on ONC to accelerate making health data easily accessible, interpretable by computers, and searchable on the web.

Continue reading “Why Context and Relevance Matter to Health Data Computability”

Healthcare Messages Over the Internet: The Direct Project

BRIAN AHIER, RICH ELMORE AND DAVID C. KIBBE

Originally Published 11/29/10 on The Health Care Blog

The Direct Project announced today the completion of its open-source connectivity-enabling  software and the start of a series of pilots that will be demonstrating directed secure messaging for healthcare stakeholders over the internet.  The Direct Project specifies a simple, secure, scalable, standards-based way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet.

Continue reading “Healthcare Messages Over the Internet: The Direct Project”

If Employers Walked Away From Health Coverage

BRIAN KLEPPER and DAVID C. KIBBE

Originally Published on Kaiser Health News on 11/24/10

What would happen if the rank and file of America’s employers, financially overwhelmed by the burden associated with sponsoring health coverage, suddenly opted out?

It isn’t so far-fetched. Enrollment by working age families in private health coverage dropped more than 10 percent over the last decade, as individuals and business were priced out of the coverage market. Others, victims of the downturned economy, have lost their jobs and access to subsidized coverage. Those who still have coverage have narrower benefits with higher out-of-pocket costs than before.

Continue reading “If Employers Walked Away From Health Coverage”

Dr. Kibbe Leaves C&C

We are only just out of the gate, but going forward, David C. Kibbe, MD MBA will not be a Principal in Care & Cost.

Dr. Kibbe was instrumental in conceptualizing and developing this site, and while I hope he’ll write and comment from time to time, David has decided that the considerable demands associated with running this site would take a toll on an otherwise very busy consulting practice.

Regular readers – and certainly health IT professionals – know that David is a true visionary and one of the nation’s top authorities on Health IT. An architect of the Continuity of Care Record Standard and the framer of the concept of Clinical Groupware, David has unfailingly worked to push the boundaries of current health IT to its most effective and efficient point.

My writing collaboration with David has been extremely productive. Among the most fertile and expansive minds I’ve ever encountered, we each took the leads on articles bearing on our respective expertise, but challenged the other to make each point more clearly, more powerfully, connecting the specific with the largest principles. It would not be wrong to note that, together, we successfully aired perspectives that were more in the public than the special interest, occasionally with a positive impact on policy or in the market.

I wish Dr. Kibbe every possible success.

A Framework for Care & Cost: Toward A Healthier America

BRIAN KLEPPER and DAVID C. KIBBE

It’s not that we don’t know what’s wrong with health care or how to fix it. The problem, instead, is how to change a system rigged to protect industry excess over care and cost.

As we begin this forum, we see American health care edging closer to a cliff and dragging the larger American economy with it. The health care cost bubble, inflated by duplication and waste, is poised to pop. At the same time, the industry’s bloat has encouraged innovation, driving improvements in quality, safety and cost throughout health care.

Continue reading “A Framework for Care & Cost: Toward A Healthier America”

Welcome!!

I am delighted to introduce Care & Cost (C&C), a new expert health care forum, by and for health care professionals and others. There will be topics for everyone in health care, as well as within channels that target specific professional disciplines. Most of all, we’ll work hard to make this fun, engaging, intellectually fresh, and worth your precious time.

I am a longtime health care analyst, advisor and commentator, writing about health care innovation, market dynamics, technologies, and economics.

That said, while I’ll host and write regularly on C&C, my hope is that this site will become a marketplace of ideas from all over health care: supply chain (drugs, devices, supplies), health information technologies, care delivery, finance and all the sub-sectors and disciplines that work within and support them.

In other words, I want this to be a site for field practitioners of all types so we all can broaden our understanding of the realities that really do shape health care in the US and globally. This means that this site will encourage a free exchange that includes physicians, health plan managers, benefits managers, health system executives and supply chain managers, yes, but also respiratory therapists, underwriters, health plan brokers, drug reps, imaging consultants, and anyone else who works day-to-day in health care and believes there is a story to tell or a perspective that merits being heard.

I really look forward to sharing this space with you.

Brian Klepper, PhD


Keeping An Eye on the Health Care Prize

Originally Published on Kaiser Health News, 9/20/2010

BRIAN KLEPPER and DAVID C. KIBBE

Many reformers undoubtedly believe that passage of the health overhaul law laid the issue to rest. But policy’s wheels continue to turn, and the process is anything but over.

Decades of fee-for-service reimbursement became the health industry’s article of faith, encouraging virtually everyone in the system to do as much as possible to every patient, with half or more of all expenditures wasted or unnecessary. But it was also a recipe for national disaster. Over the last decade, nearly all U.S. economic growth was absorbed by health care.

Continue reading “Keeping An Eye on the Health Care Prize”

Why The FMA Is Off-Base On Reform

BRIAN KLEPPER and DAVID C. KIBBE
At an Orlando meeting last week, Florida Medical Association (FMA) members fumed that their parent, the AMA, isn’t adequately representing Florida’s private practice doctors. After talk of secession and forming a new group, they settled for writing a stern letter urging the AMA to straighten up.

The FMA dustup began with a resolution written by Douglas Stevens MD, a Fort Myers cosmetic surgeon – you can’t make this stuff up – complaining that the AMA’s support for recent reforms was “a severe intrusion in the patient-physician relationship and allows government control over essentially all aspects of medical care.” He wrote that it will “relegate physicians to the role of government employees…and essentially end the profession of medicine as we know it.” A St. Petersburg neurological surgeon, David McKalip, added, “Without (AMA) support, the whole thing (i.e., reform) would have died.” Continue reading “Why The FMA Is Off-Base On Reform”

Are We Adequately Securing Personal Health Information

By BRIAN KLEPPER AND DAVID KIBBE

In a discussion about electronic health records (EHRs) a couple weeks ago, one of the Human Resource team members at a prospective client said, “I don’t believe it’s possible to secure electronic health data. It’s always an accident waiting to happen.”

There is some truth to that. More and more, our Personal Health Information (PHI) is in electronic formats that allow it to be exchanged with professionals and organizations throughout the health care continuum. It is highly unlikely that each contact point has the protections to wrap that data up tightly, away from those who would exploit it.

Of course, PHI is among the richest examples of personal data, often with all the key ingredients prized by identify thieves: social security number, birthday, phone numbers, address, and even credit card information. This should give health care organizations considerable pause.

Then consider that, while paper charts contain the same information, electronic files often aggregate hundreds of thousands or even millions of records, information treasures troves for someone really focused on acquiring, mining and making use of the data.

Which is what makes a new health data security survey commissioned by Kroll Fraud Solutions and conducted by HIMSS Analytics, so provocative. As they had in 2008, HIMSS Analytics found that most provider organizations meticulously comply with data security rules and standards. But they’re overly confident about the security that compliance actually conveys. Worse, many remain unaware, until confronted by an event, of the devastating implications of even a minor breach.

And the threat is intensifying as the market and technology evolve. In 2010, 19 percent of organizations reported a breach, half-again higher than the 13 percent in 2008. Apparently, both the complexity of the environment and the interest in the data are growing. Security may be diminishing as a result.

And breaches can be hugely costly. A Poneman Institute study found an average cost of $6.75 million for organizational data breaches. This figure is not limited to incidents with malicious origins or even harmful consequences. In January 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to pay $20 million to veterans who could show they were hurt when, in 2006, a VA data analyst lost a laptop containing information on 26.5 million patients, nearly every living veteran. The laptop was eventually recovered without apparent data compromise. The VA is now struggling with a new, serious health data breach.

Nor is the impact likely to be financial alone. The larger cost may simply be in the loss of patient confidence. After all, if an organization can’t competently manage my data, do I want to hand over management of my family’s health?

Perhaps the HIMSS Analytics’ study’s most important and penetrating finding is that “health care organizations continue to think of data security in specific silos (IT, employees, etc.) and not as an organization-wide responsibility, which creates unwanted gaps in policies and procedures.” Nearly 9 in 10 survey respondents said they have policies in place to monitor access to and sharing of health care information. But more than four-fifths of breaches occur in more mundane ways: e.g., lost/stolen laptops, improper document disposal, stolen tapes. In other words, the holes can’t be addressed by isolated approaches.

Security is a process, not a product. This means that certification of PHI security must be larger than merely plugging the security gaps in information technology, and must extend to the ways that people access and use information and the information technology.

It is clear that the answers here involve making heath data security an enterprise-wide responsibility, creating highly aware environments resistant to breach in even the most seemingly insignificant interactions. That will demand a significant cultural shift, critically necessary but, as this survey shows, difficult for many organizations’ leaders to wrap their heads around.

Brian Klepper, PhD and David C. Kibbe, MD MBA write together on health care innovation, technology and market dynamics.

The Surprise

Brian Klepper

Check out this March 3rd article – see the image – from the recent HIMSS conference, in which Dave Garets, President and CEO of HIMSS Analytics, “gazes into the future and predicts major trends for the next 12 months.” HIMSS Analytics is the research and consulting arm of the health IT vendors’ association, and presumably on Health IT’s leading edge.

From the article:

“Q: What will constitute the surprise of 2010 – the one technology or policy or X-factor that no one saw coming.”

“A: Clinical groupware in the ambulatory market that may be the disruptive innovation of ambulatory EMRs.”

For the uninitiated, “Clinical Groupware” is a term that is rapidly gaining traction and that describes a new wave of inexpensive, ergonomic, useful Web-based care management tools. David Kibbe coined the phrase and articulated Clinical Groupware’s conceptual framework on this blog early last year – see here and then here. He noted that it:

“…captures the basic notion that the primary purpose for using these IT systems is to improve clinical care through communications and coordination involving a team of people, the patient included. And in a manner that fosters accountability in terms of quality and cost.”

Dr. Kibbe formulated his ideas, not in isolation, but in continual discussions with innovators developing great new care management tools – e.g., Docsite, Keas, Relay Health, VisionTree, Medicity/NOVO, Salesforce, Practice Fusion – that were realizations of the concept in one form or another. A group of these like-minded developers founded the Clinical Groupware Collaborative, led now by Steve Adams, the founder of RMD Networks. If you’re working in this or an aligned area, consider joining.

Which is all by way of saying that it is a stretch to say that “no one,” especially HIMSS, saw this coming. From the moment that HIMSS became aware of Clinical Groupware – it’s newfound religion on Web-based and modular approaches notwithstanding – influential members were concerned about the trend’s disruptiveness. After all, if you’re selling EHRs for $25,000 per physician and a new competitor comes along with complete systems or highly useful modular components for a fraction of that – or even free! – the pricing shift will wreak havoc on your revenue and market cap. It’s enough to give even the most enthusiastic free marketeer the willies.

That concern found expression through HIMSS influence over CCHIT‘s – the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology – certification process. CCHIT’s criteria were initially spun to favor HIMSS members’ products, mostly old-fashioned client-server tools that are complex and not interoperable, and to stifle support of newer, more streamlined solutions like Clinical Groupware. Remember that, early on, everyone thought CCHIT certification would be the criterion for receiving ARRA HITECH stimulus funding, so the criteria could be used to steer the money, conflicts of interest notwithstanding. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed on the HHS Policy Committee and that heist was averted, or at least it seems so at this point.

The good news is that Dave is right. Clinical Groupware is evolving rapidly and will seamlessly link tools, care teams and patients. It does look disruptive and undoubtedly is the future. If they’re watching, this should give serious pause to all those investors driving up Allscripts stock price.

Because, in the end, many old-guard EHRs – the ones Clinical Groupware will replace – produce dreadful customer experiences like the one described recently by John Moore. His article described a market begging for innovation, where the old guard is locked into its past market domination and excessive pricing, and the users are increasingly frustrated.

Of course the irony here is that Clinical Groupware will most surprise and disrupt HIMSS’ member organizations, the core of Mr. Garet’s constituency, who thought the matter was settled a year ago.

Brian Klepper writes about health care market dynamics and innovation.

After the Failure of Reform

By BRIAN KLEPPER AND DAVID C. KIBBE

The stalemate in the bi-partisan health care summit was cast the moment it was announced. Republicans demanded that the reform process start anew, and Mr. Obama insisted on the Senate bill as the framework going forward. The President may now offer a more modest reform bill that can demonstrate some progress on the health care crisis, but that remains to be seen.

We hoped the White House would seize the opportunity presented by Massachusetts’ election of Scott Brown to begin again, huddling away from the lobbyists to develop a new set of provisions that would include reasonable Republican elements, like medical liability reform, as well as other meaningful cost reduction provisions excluded from the first round of bills: pricing/quality transparency, a move away from fee-for-service reimbursement, and the re-empowerment of primary care.

They took a different path. As Ezra Klein speculated in the Washington Post, Mr. Obama and his advisors may believe that, with the 2010 elections bearing down on Congress, there is too little time to begin again.

But this is a questionable political calculation. The reform process soured the American people and American business on the health care bills. A January 27 Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health (NBGH) survey found that 71% of employers believe the bills “will increase the overall cost of health care services in the United States.” A February 11 Rasmussen survey found that61% of voters think the bills should have been scrapped and the process started over.

And no wonder. Over the past year, the legalized bribery that is special interest lobbying was fully on display, with members of both parties (but led by the Democrats) taking contributors’ money with a gusto unprecedented since the Republican feeding frenzy set off by Newt Gingrich’s K-Street Project. A new report from the Center for Public Integrity shows that “more than 1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists — eight for each member of Congress — to influence health reform bills in 2009.” Together, they spent $1.2 billion on health care, more than one-third of the $3.47 billion spent by special interests in 2009 to buy influence over policy.

And then there was the brazen political deal making. Mary Landrieu brought $300 million in federal aid home to Louisiana for voting with the Democratic Leadership, which the GOP promptly dubbed “the Louisiana Purchase.” Ben Nelson got the Feds to pay for most of Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion…in perpetuity. And, on the eve of the Massachusetts Senatorial election, the White House cut a deal that exempted unions from the tax on “Cadillac health plans” until 2018.

The resulting reform provisions – a cynical combination of expert advice, uncompromising ideology and donor quid pro quos – would have extended entitlements while rescuing the industry at the top of a financial bubble, exacerbating the cost growth problem during a recession by replacing dwindling private funding with public dollars. At the same time, the bills specifically avoided committing to approaches that could wring excessive cost from the system.

In truth, either passing or blocking such poor bills would have had little impact on the increasingly threatening crisis. Short of starting over, American health care will continue to face some very harsh realities. More individual and corporate purchasers, particularly small employers, will be priced out of coverage as health care costs explode. This erosion in mainstream coverage is translating to a reduction in total health plan premium – the engine of the health care economy – and to escalating uncompensated care cost loads throughout the system. A plummeting number of insured patients will find it harder and harder to pay for a rapidly growing number of uninsureds and under-insureds.

These are recipes for instability and disaster. And as health care – the nation’s largest economic sector, representing one dollar in six and one job in eleven – becomes increasingly unstable, so does the larger US economy.

Americans are increasingly aware that a government in which both parties are compromised by political ideologies and special interests will likely leave them to their own devices in dealing with health care. American business had, to a great extent, put health care benefits decisions on hold until reform was complete. Now it is resigned to continuing to cope with that burden, but with a renewed commitment to innovation. A February 22nd Towers Watson/NBGH survey found that “83% of companies have already revamped or expect to revamp their health care strategy within the next two years, up from 59% in 2009,” a clear sign that businesses now think they need to act on their own behalves. (Of course, most individual Americans don’t have that latitude.)

One thing is clear. Without reform as it was constituted and the subsidies it promised, the industry faces an onslaught of actions from the marketplace that will focus on its excesses, drive down reimbursement, and hold it more accountable. A long list of innovations – re-empowered primary care; data collaboratives that identify and then create incentives for making the best choices; new technologies like minimally invasive surgeries, point-of-care testing, and clinical decision support tools; medical tourism; clinical groupware; check lists; Health 2.0 business-to-business ventures that streamline health care processes – are now proving they can improve the quality of care while reducing cost.

The result is inescapable. No system this far out of balance can remain unchanged indefinitely. So long as it was influencing the policy process, the health care industry would never course correct in ways that are in our national interest. But as the environment continues to intensify, the market will be driven to embrace and integrate these solutions. One way or another, the health industry is in for real change over the next few years.

Meanwhile, until America meaningfully addresses cost and access through policy, proper health care will continue to be out of reach to many and will threaten many more with personal financial ruin. It will continue to sap the nation’s economic strength, and compromise our efforts to lead and compete internationally.

Which is why the President should begin again, and make achieving serious health care policy reform a dedicated goal. In the process, he could challenge special interest influence over policy, and work to refocus the political process on the common interest. We believe the American people can see how the current paradigm is corroding our nation, and would rally behind this approach. More to the point, this was the premise of Mr. Obama’s election. The American mainstream is waiting for him to assert his leadership in this way.

Health care reform has stalled and possibly failed for the moment. But the stakes are so great for America that failure cannot be an option.

Will Business Force Reform Back to the Drawing Board

BRIAN KLEPPER and DAVID C. KIBBE

Until now, non-health care business has been noticeably absent from the health care reform proceedings , and quiet about the bills’ impacts on their management of employee benefits, on cost, and on the larger issues of global competitiveness. Where have the voices been of the powerful business leaders who will pick up much of the tab?

They’ve finally surfaced, and now we’ll see whether they have the will to bring reform back on track. They certainly have the strength. The question is whether this salvo by the business mainstream could force Democrats to reconsider and revise the content and structure of their proposals.

On October 29th, a powerful collaborative of major employer organizations sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner asserting that the House legislation “falls short of the bipartisan goal of controlling costs and jeopardizes employer-sponsored coverage which now serves more than 160 million Americans.” The same group sent a similar letter to Senate President Reid earlier that week.

It is important to note that the collaborative – the group includes the American Benefits Council, the Corporate Health Care Coalition, the ERISA Industry Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the National Coalition on Benefits, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Business Roundtable and the National Business Group on Health – represents the mainstream of American business. In general, these associations’ member firms have sponsored employee health coverage for decades, and understand the linkages between health, productivity, cost and competitiveness. Their very real stake in the outcome, their long term sponsorship and their sheer collective clout enable them to enter and change the terms of the discussion.

Then, Tuesday, Employee Benefit News published a list of 10 specific items prepared by National Business Group on Health President Helen Darling, a longstanding progressive voice in health benefits, that “should concern plan sponsors that provide health care benefits to their workers.” The bill, she said:

  1. Lacks meaningful ways to control health care costs;
  2. Takes us down the road to even worse deficits and crushing national debt by not getting more savings from the health system and making the coverage more affordable;
  3. Does not support strong evidence-based medicine or a way to make certain that we don’t pay for treatments that are not effective;
  4. Does not establish a strong independent Commission that could help Congress make the politically hard, but obvious, good decisions to eliminate wasteful and harmful treatments and spending;
  5. Does nothing to correct medical liability problems and related costly defensive medical practices;
  6. Doesn’t expand employers’ ability to help employees to actively engage in wellness activities or achieve health goals;
  7. Undermines ERISA and opens ERISA plans to unacceptable burdens;
  8. Raises serious questions about the public plan and how it would operate;
  9. Could require an employer who provides comprehensive benefits to still be subject to an 8% payroll tax if employees decline employer coverage because it costs more 12% of the employee’s income; and
  10. Contains an outrageous requirement that would require employers still offering retiree medical coverage to continue it indefinitely, thereby hurting employers who have maintained retiree benefits in good faith.

Non-health care businesses comprise about six-sevenths of the economy – meaning they have six times the heft and influence of the health care industry – and financially sponsor coverage for more than half of Americans. Year after year, employers have borne the lion’s share of onerous health care cost increases, 4 times general inflation over the last decade. Endless reports have described how health care, business’ largest and most unpredictable benefit cost, has sapped America’s global competitiveness and placed its employers at a severe disadvantage. An equal torrent of words has been spent on health care’s excessive waste, at least 30% of our $2.6 trillion expenditure, or north of $800 billion annually. Even so, most business leaders are loathe to simply give up the health system they currently sponsor, its flaws notwithstanding, unless they can be confident the alternative can result in lower cost, improved quality, and an equally or more productive workforce.

Keep in mind that, at this point, health care reform has been a series of power plays between Congress and the health care industry (meaning the professionals, firms and associations representing health care’s four major sectors: the supply chain, HIT, care delivery and insurance/finance).

Until now, the health care industry – those who seek dollars – has dominated, lobbying Congress and contributing enormous sums to election campaign coffers to make sure that the legislation doesn’t impede health care profiteering and sends new funds their way. Meanwhile it has held its breath, apparently hoping that other interests with clout won’t notice. As the bills come down to the wire, the air waves have NOT burned with cautionary and righteously indignant health care industry messages opposing them. That’s because organizations in the health industry are reasonably certain they’ve won. They have been sitting tight until the deals are done.

And with good reason. As they stand now, the reform bills are very generous to the health care industry, facilitating, through mandate and/or subsidy, millions of new customers but, as we’ve recently pointed out, doing pathetically little to rectify the health care crisis’ structural drivers. For example, the health plan sector can raise rates without restraint, and a significant chunk of Medicare dollars will be transferred to private sector control. The biotech industry gets a 12 year moratorium on generic competition. With only token progress away from fee-for-service reimbursement and toward primary care re-empowerment, the system will continue to make specialist excesses lucrative. The American Medical Association (AMA) and Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) couldn’t be more enthusiastic, though both are now campaigning for H.R. 3961, which would eliminate the 21.2% drop in Medicare physician reimbursements scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2010. There are many more examples.

Commercial purchasers have waited to see how all this would play out. But now they’re stirring, and not a moment too soon. Non-health care business leaders finally appear to be mobilizing against the weak cost control provisions of the current proposals.

What is needed now is an orchestrated, mobilized, highly visible campaign effort that features the faces and voices of well-known American CEOs, and that leverages the full force of business’ leadership across industries, not just for their own interests, but for those of all Americans. The places to start are in the structural areas we and others have recently discussed: primary care, fee-for-service reimbursement and cost/quality performance transparency. Properly implemented, reforms in these approaches throughout health care could have profoundly positive impacts on both cost and quality, empowering the market to make health care far more affordable for businesses and working families.

It is possible that the entire health care reform process just changed tone and direction. If it did not, then we’re no worse off than before. But if it did, then the ramifications for how American policy works – not just for health care but for all our issues – could have just entered a new and profoundly important paradigm.

Brian Klepper and David C. Kibbe write together on health care market dynamics, health IT, innovation and policy.

Saving Health Care, Saving America

By

So far, Congress’ response to the health care crisis has been alarmingly disappointing in three ways. First, by willingly accepting enormous sums from health care special interests, our representatives have obligated themselves to their benefactors’ interests rather than to those of the American people. More than 3,330 health care lobbyists – six for every member of Congress – contributed more than one-quarter of a billion dollars in the first and second quarters of 2009. A nearly equal amount has been contributed on this issue from non-health care organizations. This exchange of money prompted a Public Citizen lobbyist to comment, “A person can reach no other conclusion than this is a quid pro quo [this for that] activity.”

Second, by carefully avoiding reforms of the practices that drive health care’s enormous cost growth, Congress pretends to make meaningful change where little is contemplated. For example, current proposals would not rebuild our failing primary care capabilities, which other developed nations depend upon to maintain healthy people at half the cost of our specialist-dominated approach. They fail to advance the easy availability and understandability of information about care quality and costs, so purchasers still cannot identify which professionals and organizations are high or low performers, essential to allowing health care to finally work as a market. They do little to simplify the onerous burden associated with the administration of billing and collections. The proposals continue to favor fee-for-service reimbursement, which rewards the delivery of more products and services, independent of their appropriateness, rather than rewarding results. Policy makers overlook the importance of bipartisan proposals like the Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act that uses the tax system to incentivize consumers to make wiser insurance purchases. And they all but ignore our unpredictable medical malpractice system, which nearly all doctors and hospital executives tell us unjustly encourages them to practice defensively.

Most distressing, the processes affecting health care reflect all policy-making. By allowing special interests to shape critically important policies, Congress no longer is able to address any of our most important national problems in the common interest – e.g., energy, the environment, education, poverty, productivity.

Over the last four years, a growing percentage of individual and corporate purchasers has become unable to afford coverage, and enrollment in commercial health plans has eroded substantially. Fewer enrollees mean fewer premium dollars available to buy health care products and services.

With diminished revenues, the industry is unilaterally advocating for universal coverage. This would provide robust new revenues. But they are opposing changes to the medical profiteering practices that result in excessive costs, and which often are the foundation of their current business models. And these two elements form the troublesome core of the current proposals.

Each proposal so far contemplates additional cost. But we shouldn’t have to spend more to fix health care. Within the industry’s professional community, most experts agree that as much as one-third of all health care spending is wasted, meaning that a portion of at least $800 billion a year could be recovered. There is no mystery about where the most blatant waste is throughout the system, or how to restructure health care business practices to significantly reduce that waste.

Make no mistake. A failure to immediately address the deep drivers of the crisis will force the nation to pay a high price and then revisit the same issues in the near future. It is critical to restructure health care now, without delay, but in ways that serve the interests of the nation, not a particular industry.

Congress ultimately must be accountable to the American people. The American people must prevail on Congress to revise the current proposals, build on the lessons gleaned throughout the industry over the last 25 years, and directly address the structural flaws in our current system. True, most health industry groups will resist these efforts over the short term, but the result would be a more stable and sustainable health system, health care economy and national economy, outcomes that would benefit America’s people, its businesses and even its health care sector.

Finally, the American people should demand that Congress revisit and revise the conflicted lobbying practices that have so corroded policymaking on virtually every important issue. Doing so would revitalize the American people’s confidence in Congress, and would re-empower it to create thoughtful, innovative solutions to our national problems.

Brian Klepper is a health care analyst and industry advisor. David C. Kibbe is a family physician and a technology consultant to the industry. Robert Laszewski is a former senior health insurance executive and a health policy analyst. Alain Enthoven is Professor of Management (Emeritus) at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.