Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Obama’s Health Reform Meeting: The Message Is The Message

A pharma stakeholder emailed The RPM Report following the highly anticipated and widespread reporting of a health care reform meeting at the White House, featuring representatives from pharma, insurers, physician and hospital organizations, and medical device manufacturers.

“Is the press really going to let Obama get away with this event? I just don’t see any specifics here and, therefore, no reason to take this seriously. What am I missing?”

The quick answer is: messaging. In short, the meeting was much more about communication than it was about policy.

It’s true, the brief remarks by Obama at the White House offered very few details. Here are the select highlights paraphrased and quoted directly from the President’s speech:

►Americans “must be free” to choose their doctors and insurance.

►Americans can keep insurance they have.

►“I’m committed to building a transparent process and all views are welcome.”

►“This is a historic day, a watershed event.”

►“What’s brought us all together today is the recognition that we can’t keep traveling the same dangerous road.

►“We’re spending more on health care than any other nation on Earth.”

►“What is a growing crisis for the American people is also an untenable burden for American businesses.”

►“When it comes to health care spending, we’re on an unsustainable course.”

Most would agree that the answers to the nation’s health care concerns aren’t layered in Obama's remarks. However, there was one very clear specific offered by the President: a coalition of critical health care providers have vowed to cut costs by 1.5% each year for 10 years resulting in $2 trillion of overall savings for that period.

Those are big, specific numbers that are easily digestible by reporters, broadcasters, and most importantly, voters.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has said controlling costs is the number one priority for health care reform above all else. To read our previous coverage, click here.

Indeed, most headlines and cable TV news shows immediately after the speech zeroed in on the $2 trillion savings—not the lack of specifics on how to get there. That’s a big victory for the White House in such a hotly contested issue.

The second strategy, which has become apparent in the two White House meetings on health care reform, is Obama will not paint himself into a corner when it comes to what health care reform is. He highlighted choice of doctor, choice of insurance/keeping your current plan and lowering costs as part of his principles. That’s pretty vanilla and no one on Capitol Hill is talking about opposing any of those. That gives Obama flexibility as the legislative options become clearer in June.

A third apparent strategy is for Obama to speak infrequently on health care reform—at least for now—in order for his words to carry greater weight and for carefully rolled-out events to make bigger headlines. One of the criticisms of President Clinton in 1993-1994 is that he spoke too frequently about health care reform towards the end leading to messaging missteps and causing the public to eventually tune out the message itself.

For example, much was made in the mainstream media of who met with the President privately and who stood behind him during his remarks. Here’s a list of attendees furnished by the White House:


George Halvorson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)

Jay Gellert, President and CEO of Health Net Inc.


Thomas Priselac, President & CEO, Cedars-Sinai Health System

Rich Umbdenstock, President & CEO, American Hospital Association (AHA)

Ken Raske, President,Greater New York Hospital Association


J. James Rohack, MD, President-Elect, American Medical Association (AMA)

Rebecca Patchin, MD, Chair-Elect of the AMA

Rich Deem, Senior Vice President of the AMA

Medical Device Companies

Michael Mussallem, Chairman & CEO, Edwards Lifesciences

Steve Ubl, President & CEO, AdvaMed

David Nexon, Senior Executive Vice President, AdvaMed

Pharmaceutical Companies

Richard Clark, Chairman, President & CEO, Merck

Billy Tauzin, President & CEO, PhRMA

Rick Smith, Senior Vice President, PhRMA


Andy Stern, SEIU

Dennis Rivera, SEIU Health

Administration Officials:

Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the Office of Health Reform

Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council

Kathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary

Halvorson, Rohack, Clark, Mussallem, Rivera, and Priselac joined Obama during his speech. No representatives from biotech or the Biotechnology Industry Organization were invited to the meeting. Broadcasters focused on the fact that many of the people involved in the meeting were the same ones opposed to health care reform in 1993-1994. The inference: the chances for reforming the system are much better now than they were then.

When we asked the pharma stakeholder what the headlines should have read instead of the $2 trillion savings pledge, the response was less positive than the mainstream media coverage: “Obama Cheers as Industry Leaders Offer Big Promises but No Details.”



Dan said...

The U.S. Health Care: Anarchy And Apathy

What follows are believed to be facts that are believed to exist regarding the present U.S. Health Care System. This may be why about 80 percent of U.S. citizens understandably want our health care system overhauled desperately due to the inadequate health care they receive and access:

The U.S. is ranked rather low related to life expectancy and infant mortality.

However, the U.S. is ranked number one in the world for spending the most for health care- as well as being number one for those with chronic diseases.

About 125 million people have such diseases. This is about 70 percent of the Medicare budget that is spent treating these terrible illnesses.

Health Care costs are now well over 2 trillion dollars of our gross domestic product. This is three times the amount nearly 20 years ago- and 8 times the amount it was about 30 years ago.

Most is spent with medical institutions, as far as health expenditures are concerned.

About a third of that amount is nothing more than administrative toxic waste that does not involve the restoration of the health of others. This illustrates how absurd the U.S. Health Care System is presently.

Nearly 7000 dollars is spent on every citizen for health care every year, and that, too, is more than anyone else in the world.

We have around 50 million citizens without any health insurance, which may cause about 20 thousand deaths per year.

This includes millions of children without health care, which is added to the planned or implemented cuts in the government SCHIP program for children, which alone covers about 7 million kids.

Our children.

Nearly half of the states in the U.S. are planning on or have made cuts to Medicaid, which covers about 60 million people, and those on Medicaid are in need of this coverage is largely due to unemployment.

With these Medicaid cuts, over a million people will lose their health care coverage and benefits to a damaging degree.

About 70 percent of citizens have some form of health insurance, and the premiums for their insurance have increased nearly 90 percent in the past 8 years.

About 45 percent of health care is provided by our government- which is predicted to experience a severe financial crisis in the near future with some government health care programs, it has been reported.

About half of all patients do not receive proper treatment to restore their health, it has been stated. Medical errors desperately need to be reduced as well.

Most doctors want a single payer health care system, which would save about 400 billion dollars a year- about 20 percent less than what we are paying now.

The American College of Physicians, second in size only to the American Medical Association, supports a single payer health care system.
The AMA, historically opposed to a single payer health care system, has close to half of its members in favor of this system.

Less than a third of all physicians are members of the AMA, according to others.

Our health care we offer citizens is the present system is sort of a hybrid of a national and private health care system that has obviously mutated to a degree that is incapable of being fully functional due to perhaps copious amounts and levels of individual and legal entities.

Health Care must be the priority immediately by the new administration and congress.

Challenges include the 700 billion dollars that have been pledged with the financial bailout that will occur, since the proposed health care plan of the next administration is projected to cost over a trillion dollars within the first year or so of the proposed plan to recalibrate health care for all of us in the U.S.

Likely, hundreds of billions of dollars that are speculated to be saved with a reform of the country’s health care system.

Health policy analysts should not be greatly concerned on the health care corporate shareholders who may be affected by this reform of our health care system that is desperately needed.

It is estimated that the U.S. needs presently tens of thousands more primary care physicians to fully satisfy the necessities of those members of the public health.

This specialty makes possibly less than 100 thousand dollars annually in income, compared with other physician specialties, yet they are and have been the backbone of the U.S. health care system.

The American College of Physicians believes that a patient centered national health care workforce policy is needed to address these issues that would ideally restructure the payment policies that exist presently with primary care physicians.

Further vexing is that it is quite apparent that we have some greedy health care corporations that take advantage of our health care system.

Over a billion dollars was recovered for Medicare and Medicaid fraud last year through settlements paid to the department of Justice because some organizations who deliberately ripped off taxpayers.

These are the taxpayers in the U.S. who have a fragmented health care system with substantial components and different levels of government- composed of several legal entities and individuals, which has resulted in medical anarchy, so it seems.

Thanks to various corporations infecting our Health Care System in the United States, the following variables sum up this system as it exists today.

Perhaps the United States National Health Insurance Act (H.R. 676) is the best solution to meet our health care needs as citizens, it appears.

We would finally have, as with most other countries, a Universal Health Care system that will allow free choice of doctors and hospitals, potentially, and health care for all completely.

It should and likely will be funded by a combination of payroll taxes and general tax revenue which is realistically possible.

Because the following seems to be in need of repair regarding the U.S. Health Care System:

Access- citizens do not have the right or ability to make use of this system as we should.

Efficiency- this system strives on creating much waste and expense as it possibly can.

Quality- the standard of excellence we deserve as citizens with our health care is missing in action.

Sustainability- We as citizens cannot continue to keep our health care system in as it is designed at this time- as it exists today.

Dan Abshear

Ramsey Baghdadi said...

WOW! Thanks so much for the comments and the time it took you to write them. Always appreciated.