The health-care job that really matters has a new occupant

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

The official who matters most when it comes to controlling U.S. health-care spending has just resigned, leaving behind a program with serious fiscal problems that badly needs further reform. No, not Kathleen Sebelius — and the program isn’t the Affordable Care Act.

The official is Jonathan Blum, and the program in question is Medicare, which next year will replace defense as the largest federal expenditure after Social Security. Blum had started to get Medicare costs under better control, but there’s a lot more work to do and there’ll be plenty of resistance along the way.

What comes next, though, will be harder. You can see the challenge facing the new guy by looking at what Blum tried, and failed, to do. Under pressure from Congress and the health-care industry, his agency backed down from cuts to both Medicare Advantage and the prescription-drug program. Further efforts to reduce costs will spark similar revolts.

One good thing: The next head of Medicare certainly understands the problem. Blum’s successor is Sean Cavanaugh, until this week deputy director for the unit overseeing Medicare’s many pilot and demonstration projects. These hold promise for changing the way doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers coordinate the care they provide. Reforms like this can mean better health care for less money.

Unfortunately, the lesson of recent years is that coming up with good ideas is one thing, getting them to stick quite another. Cavanaugh will need to talk health-care providers into accepting the wide-scale adoption of accountable-care organizations, value-based purchasing and other types of payment reform. He’ll also have to get the costs of Medicare Advantage in line with those of traditional Medicare – over the objections of a hyperventilating insurance industry.

It’s a critical job. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, Dec. 5

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 31, 2020, file photo, Washington Army and Air National Guard soldiers confer in an operations room at Camp Murray, Wash. The state of Washington is calling in the National Guard to help process unemployment benefit claims as officials grapple with a backlog caused in part by a fraud ring that stole more than half a billion dollars in aid, officials said Thursday, June 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)
Editorial: Take steps to make most of next jobless aid bill

State and federal authorities need to improve delivery of unemployment benefits for covid relief.

Schwab: Some how, Trump more ruinous after losing election

In between rounds of golf, Trump still finds time to endanger the lives of election workers.

Comment: GOP should take the deal on $908 billion relief bill

Otherwise, they risk weakening the economy and strengthening Democrats’ push to repeal tax cuts.

Story described struggles of musicians during covid

I would like to thank and congratulate Herald writer Sara Bruestle for… Continue reading

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, Dec. 4

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with imprinted RECEIVE, GIVE concept words
Editorial: We can meet increased need caused by covid

As GivingTuesday nears, consider how you can help nonprofits with the work they do in your community.

A latte is made at Narrative Coffee on Oct. 4, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Covid only upped need for Small Business Saturday

Locally owned businesses need your support to survive the pandemic. Here’s how to do so safely.

Tonya Drake is chancellor of WGU Washington. (Courtesy of WGU)
Editorial: Education can build on Native Americans’ heritage

There are obstacles to higher education, but also new opportunities to increase students’ access.

Most Read