Across the country, celebrations large and small were recently held in honor of Medicare’s 50th birthday. These celebrations were well deserved since Medicare is one of the most successful programs of the past century.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell recently made an announcement that has the potential to accelerate the transformation of health care delivery and payment. Secretary Burwell’s goal of moving away from fee-for-service health care is critical to beneficiaries and the quality of the care they receive, the future of the Medicare program and the health care system as a whole.
Depending on which article you read, either the Medicare Trustees think the program is coming to an end, or the news is great and we don’t need to do anything. The reality is that the recent Trustees’ report contains both positive and sobering news: while costs have been flat for the last two years and growth is expected to moderate for some years to come, Medicare’s financing is still not in good shape over the long run.
Over the last decade, the discussion about reforming our health care system has focused on changing from a “sick” care to a “well” care system — or in other words being less reactive and more preventive in our approach to medicine. If we can prevent illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer, we have the potential to make millions of people healthier and reduce the cost of treating these diseases. However, making this change requires an up-front investment that may not yield a return for some time. This does not make the idea unacceptable, but in order to gain support, it must be fully understood.