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A look at a reformed health care system

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Tess Vigeland: Today President Barack Obama held a health care summit at the White House. It was an attempt to deal with one of this country’s most intractable problems. A byzantine, expensive, and often ineffective health care system. Fixing that system has been a stated priority for previous administrations — not much has happened. Marketplace’s Steve Henn looks at the chances for real reform this time around.

STEVE HENN: When President Obama talks about the country’s health care, two issues come up: 43 million Americans are uninsured, and the staggering price.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: By a wide margin the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care — it’s not even close. That’s why we cannot delay this discussion any longer.

The president said today all reform options except inaction are on the table. But most observers agree Obama’s unlikely to propose a government-run, single-payer system. Instead, we’re likely to see a hybrid.

JOHN SHIELS: You know, I think that’s where people are headed.

John Shiels is a health policy analyst at the Lewin Group and not a fan.

SHIELS: They would actually build on the parts of the health care system that perform the most poorly right now.

Shields says that includes expanding Medicaid. He estimates the president’s health care proposals would raise health care costs by $40 billion, but the number of uninsured would fall by half. Advocates say the key will be making health care more efficient. Pay providers for patient outcomes instead of for procedures and require more people to buy coverage.

Joseph Antos is a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

JOSEPH ANTOS: This is a big ship. This isn’t a rowboat. So we’re not going to be able to change the course of this big ship very quickly.

Antos says the goal of health care reform should be to take our lumbering, dysfunctional system and change course slowly. Plug the holes and work over time to bring costs down.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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