The Unfinished Business Of Health Reform: Lower Costs, Better Care

A sense of gallows humor pervaded a national conference on health care reform that is currently underway in Boston.

Dr. Stuart Altman, an economist and professor of national health policy at Brandeis, said after he had a few drinks Tuesday night (Jack Daniels), he quickly switched the topic of his conference talk. The original title, he said, was "After Health Reform, What Next?" But following the results of the special election here this week, and the probable demise of sweeping national reform, Altman changed the talk to "Is It Possible For The U.S. To Control Health Care Costs." His answer: A resounding "Maybe." "The pressure," Altman said, "is really on."

There were, however, signs of hope. Dr. Don Berwick, president and CEO of the Cambridge-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement, is currently working with Atul Gawande (the surgeon, New Yorker writer and health quality activist) and others to identify regions of the U.S. that actually deliver quality medical care at costs lower than the rest of the nation.

Richard Moore, the state senate chair of the joint committee on health care financing, said Massachusetts is slowly taking steps toward payment reform which should ultimately control the rising cost of health care.

But, as my WBUR colleague Sacha Pfeiffer reports, truly controlling those costs will take years, according to Harriett Stanley, the house chair of the health care financing committee.

This program aired on January 22, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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