Bush order to widen access to healthcare cost and quality

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President Bush on Tuesday signed an executive order aimed an enabling patients to have more information regarding cost and quality of their healthcare, the Associated Press reports.
          
To facilitate this, four different federal agencies — Health and Human Services Department, the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs Department, and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program — will be called to provide such information for their customers and between each other, AP says.
           
"We're all about being cost-conscious," said Mike Leavitt, secretary, HHS, in a statement regarding the order. "It's just the American way. We clip coupons. We check for bargain flights on the web. We carefully research major purchases. But when it comes to healthcare, we lack the tools to compare either quality or the costs."
           
Specifically, the Bush’s order instructs the four agencies to do the following:

  • Use health IT to communicate with one another so that health records can be shared;
  • Establish a means to measure healthcare quality to be applied both on the governmental and private level;
  • Reveal how much federal agencies pay for commonly performed procedures; and
  • Establish usable best practices for high quality healthcare.

The order also instructs the agencies to begin the process of complying with these instructions by the start of 2007.   
 
Leavitt indicated that action on the federal level is essential because the government comprises nearly 40 percent of all healthcare expenditures. "It will fuel a substantial amount of change in the way healthcare is ultimately purchased, but it will take time for that to unfold," Leavitt told  AP.
   
Some have sharply criticized Bush’s order — including several Democratic lawmakers and insurance and manufacturing associations — for not pinpointing the root of the problem which they believe are rising health insurance premiums.
   
"The U.S. spends more than double that of other countries on healthcare, and yet we still don't know what we are getting for that value," said John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a business lobbying organization, the Los Angeles Times reports.
    
A national spokeswoman for the Democratic Party, Stacie Paxton, also took a shot at Bush for not making an effort to more directly confront increases in overall medical costs as well as the number of Americans currently not covered by health insurance, the LA Times reports.
   
However, some praised the initiative such as Karen Ignani, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade association for insurance companies, stating that the order "rewards the delivery of high-quality care, fosters an inter-operable healthcare system, and takes steps to ensure that consumers are equipped with the best available information they need to make healthcare decisions," the LA Times reports.