Senate debates health care bill -- will it control costs?
But another issue that will intensify debate is whether the proposal controls skyrocketing health care costs.
In a story yesterday, we examine how lawmakers are taking aim at high-cost hospitals with provisions that worry large -- and expensive-- academic medical centers such as Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland.
Lawmakers are drawing on influential research from Dartmouth that shows huge disparities in Medicare costs in hospitals nationwide as evidence of waste in the system. Maryland ranks sixth highest in Dartmouth research of Medicare spending in the last years of a chronically ill patients' life. Hopkins and Maryland are the state's priciest hospitals.
The health care bills would examine differences in costs and could limit how much expensive hospitals get from Medicare. In addition, the bills would clamp down on overall Medicare payment rates.
All that worries hospitals who say they are expensive to run because they are responsible for training the next generation of doctors and pioneering life-saving techniques. They fear reforms will endanger their missions.
But others don't buy those arguments and say sweeping reforms -- and lower payments -- are needed to reduce waste.
In addition to these provisions, expect serious debate in the Senate about whether the bill goes far enough to cut costs. The White House has already defended the bill's cost-cutting measures. Stay tuned to see how it all shakes out.
And here's a tidbit for all the health care wonks: Check out these little-noticed reform provisions, from encouraging time off at work for breastfeeding moms to more money for sex ed.