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Political Victory On Healthcare Reform Trumps Careful Analysis

At, the Department of Health and Human Services publishes data on the “Health Care Status Quo.”

It reads a bit like what would happen if you took the Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare and buried it in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.

The front page of now has a map of the 50 states where you can click and read about the “current status of health care and the need for reform.”

(I should add that DC is included in the map, too.  But as of the time of posting the link doesn’t seem to work).

It lists a grab-bag of categories of information on each state.  But no matter what the data shows in a state, the HHS report always concludes the same thing.   Fifty times out of fifty:

[Insert state name here] families simply can’t afford the status quo and deserve better. President Obama is committed to working with Congress to pass health reform this year that reduces costs for families, businesses and government; protects people’s choice of doctors, hospitals and health plans; and assures affordable, quality health care for all Americans.

A good example are the reports for Massachusetts and Texas- two very different states with very different data.

  • 25% of Texans are uninsured, while only 2.6% of “Massachusettsans” are.
  • Overall “quality of care” in Texas is “Weak,” while in Massachusetts it is “Strong.”
  • The percentage of people with employer-based coverage in Texas dropped from 57% to 50% from 2000 to 2007, but held steady at 72% in Massachusetts
  • 20% of Texans reported not visiting a doctor due to high costs, but only 7% of Massachusetts residents did, and “this has significantly improved since 2007.”
  • Average premiums for health insurance are about 5% cheaper in Texas, even though the market is described as being less competitive than Massachusetts
  • 27% of middle income Massachusetts families spend more than 10% of their earnings on health care, compared to 17% in Texas

What’s going on?  The HHS doesn’t seem terribly interested in exploring it.  It just says it wants some kind of unspecified health care reform, this year.

I suppose this is the way the political process works.  Make the case there is a serious problem, and seek support to do something – anything – about it, now.  As Secretary Sebelius put it:  “we cannot wait to pass reform that protects what’s good about health care and fixes what’s broken.“  I don’t think anyone really knows what this means, but maybe that’s the point.

It’s a strategy for a political victory, but not for real, needed reform of our system.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

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