The Spectacle Blog

Please, Fewer “Boots on the Ground” For Health Care

By on 11.16.11 | 3:14PM

In a White House announcement of a new $1 billion federal program intended to spur health care job creation, Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services head Donald Berwick is quoted as saying that "[b]y putting...more 'boots on the ground,' these types of programs can truly transform our health care system."

Perhaps Berwick didn't think before using the phrase "boots on the ground," but there's something grimly appropriate about his use of a military metaphor. The $1 billion program he was boosting shows all the subtlety and care of a frontal assault on an enemy. 

The idea is to request applications from "providers, payers, local government, community-based organizations and particularly...public-private partnerships and multi-payer approaches," and then award grants of $1 million to $30 million to entities that have "compelling new ideas" to lower the costs and improve the quality of Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Because priority will be given to projects that will begin and six months and that will focus on training workers, the plan is expected to generate new health care sector jobs. The $1 billion comes from funds authorized by Obamacare. 

Now $1 billion is a lot of federal spending. But it's a lot less than the $500 billion Obamacare cut from Medicare over the next 10 years. About $499 billion less. 

About $220 billion of the $500 billion in Obamacare's Medicare cuts come from reductions in payments made to doctors for performing services for Medicare recipients. The law doesn't provide a way for the health care providers to recoup those lost payments. It will be up to the providers to figure out how to deal with the lost income. Many analysts think that it will result in doctors refusing to see Medicare patients. 

So the administration, having taken an ax to hundreds of billions of dollars of Medicare payments to doctors, is now announcing that they will begin handing out $1 billion to a number of providers of their choosing. And Berwick and company expect us to take this announcement as a welcome development. 

Photo via the Department of Health and Human Service's flickr feed.

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