Harvard Med School Dean Gives Health Care Reform Bills a Failing Grade

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

In an op-ed appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, the dean of Harvard’s Medical School, gives the current health care reform process a failing grade and says the people who favor the legislation are engaged in “collective denial.”

“Instead of forthrightly dealing with the fundamental problems, discussion is dominated by rival factions struggling to enact or defeat President Barack Obama’s agenda,” Dr. Flier writes. “The rhetoric on both sides is exaggerated and often deceptive. Those of us for whom the central issue is health—not politics—have been left in the lurch. And as controversy heads toward a conclusion in Washington, it appears that the people who favor the legislation are engaged in collective denial.”

Dr. Flier says the proposals on the Hill don’t deal with the real problems in health care which are cost, access and quality. While the various bills do expand access to Medicaid and mandate subsidized insurance, there are no provisions to control the inevitable growth of costs or to raise the quality of care.

“So the overall effort will fail to qualify as reform,” Dr. Flier says.
“Worse, currently proposed federal legislation would undermine any potential for real innovation in insurance and the provision of care. It would do so by overregulating the health-care system in the service of special interests such as insurance companies, hospitals, professional organizations and pharmaceutical companies, rather than the patients who should be our primary concern.
“In effect, while the legislation would enhance access to insurance, the trade-off would be an accelerated crisis of health-care costs and perpetuation of the current dysfunctional system—now with many more participants. This will make an eventual solution even more difficult.”

Dr. Flier says many lawmakers are asserting “confidently but disingenuously” that decreased costs and enhanced quality would result from the current legislation, many of them do so even while fully aware that their proposed legislation is only the first step in a process that will drastically change the way health care is delivered in America.
“I have met many people for whom this strategy is conscious and explicit,” he says. “We should not be making public policy in such a crucial area by keeping the electorate ignorant of the actual road ahead.”

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