The Freshman Class and Health Reform Cost Containment

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Lately, there has been no shortage of criticism that the Democratic health care bill doesn’t do enough to cut health care spending. My colleague Karen Tumulty had a great story in the magazine recently about how cost-containment provisions in health reform legislation have been whittled down. Right now, on the Senate floor, a group of 11 freshman lawmakers are explaining a new package of provisions to rein in spending. Here’s the outline of what the senators are pitching.

There are 21 different proposals in the freshman plan, but here are a few highlights that I see so far:

* Testing a program to tie Medicare hospital payments to quality

* Strengthening the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation

* Having the Health and Human Services Secretary develop an objective way to evaluate the value of private health insurance

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein especially likes the section that would shore up the pilot projects related to payment bundling. Bundling is basically creating a budget for an ailment, instead of paying providers for every individual procedure as is now done in the fee-for-service system. More about this idea here.

After the Democratic freshman senators presented their package, Republican Sen. John McCain had the floor. He commended the freshman on their efforts, but said their plans are “misguided.” While nearly all of the amendments to the Senate bill that have passed since last week are of no consequence, the freshman cost containment package would change the legislation in fundamental ways, so expect to hear a lot more about the ins and outs here on Swampland and on the Senate floor.