Bush Official Nervous about Reform

July 24th, 2009 | Sources: Washington Post


We don’t recall Michael Leavitt saying anything like this during the 4 years he served as Secretary of HHS under George W. Bush, but now he’s quite forthright in calling Medicare a fiscal disaster, and declaring that health reform proposals built around it would end up just the same.

yourekiddingrightmikeWith surely not a whit of political intent, the former Secretary told the Washington Post today that Medicare provides uncoordinated, expensive, poor quality care because “every incentive in the system is to provide more care, not better care.”

Referring to the Big O’s fading aspiration to create a public option that would compete against Big Insurance, Leavitt scoffed that such an idea would lead to “essentially a bankrupt system.”

Building on Medicare “is the equivalent of trying to solve obesity by prescribing a perpetual regimen of double calories,” Leavitt told the Post.

Then, in a remarkably transparent sleight of hand designed to distance himself from what he just said was the abject failure of a program for which he was responsible, Leavitt pointed a finger at Congress.

It’s too soft, too beholden to the special interests, he deadpanned. 

Planned cuts in Medicare payments to physicians were continually blocked by a Congress that was, he said, in the back pockets of providers. And Congress had OK’d competitive bidding on medical equipment, but backed away from that too, amid pressure from the device industry.

“[I]n a system that’s run by the government, lobbyists and various commercial interests, including doctors, hospitals, nurses, medical equipment dealers and every other part of the system, use the political process to restrict the capacity for change,” Leavitt said, his hands thoroughly washed of the matter.


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