As the health care reform debate heats up, several congressional hearings were held this week spotlighting health care reform.

The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony by Peter Orszag, PhD, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, on the president’s health care proposals in the budget for 2010. The Senate Finance Committee, the lead committee in the Senate, will drive health care reform this year. Sen Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking Republican member, aim to see health care reform legislation passed in 2009, preferably by July 4.

Orszag described President Barack Obama’s strategy to control costs by researching how different areas of the country control costs and then standardizing those policies, thus "moving the nation toward the proven and successful practices adopted by lower-cost areas and hospitals." Next, the administration plans to invest in information technology, conduct comparative effectiveness studies to give physicians better information about appropriate treatments, move away from the fee-for-service system that Medicare currently uses to a pay-for-results system, and promote prevention and wellness. The administration also plans to reduce Medicare overpayments and fraud and help cut readmission rates to hospitals by providing less reimbursement to those hospitals that have high readmission rates. Orszag says these initiatives will provide the savings to help pay for the cost of providing health coverage to the uninsured.

Grassley stated his belief that Republicans and Democrats are in agreement on 80% of changes to the health care system, and a "third way" is needed to find consensus on the other 20%. Grassley’s primary concern is that health care reform continues to allow personal health care decisions to be made by the patient and his or her doctor.

On another front, following President Obama’s health care summit last week, regional summits have been scheduled to allow individuals and organizations the opportunity to provide input on reform. Summits have been scheduled for Burlington, Vt, March 17; Des Moines, Iowa, March 23; Greensboro, NC, March 31; and Los Angeles, April 6.

For information on how to submit an idea or question, or participate in a forum, go to the White House health care reform Web page.

[Source: American Physical Therapy Association]