Wisconsin State Journal: Bipartisan bill should improve health care
By Wisconsin State Journal Editorial Board
Getting Republicans and Democrats to disagree is easy, and that goes double when talk turns to health care reform. They can’t even agree on whether to call it the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
But Wisconsin’s congressional delegation recently demonstrated that bipartisanship remains possible. Seven of our state’s representatives, four Republicans and three Democrats, have sponsored the sort of sensible legislation that should be more common.
The Expanding the Availability of Medicare Data Act (HR 4418) does what its title says. It would provide medical experts with better access to Medicare data so they can find ways to improve the health care system.
U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, teamed up to introduce the act. U.S. Reps. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sean Duffy, R-Weston, also have signed on. Stakeholders such as the Wisconsin Health Information Organization and Wisconsin Medical Society support it, too.
Medicare records hold the sort of comprehensive, accurate data that doctors, insurers, hospitals, academic researchers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and others need to assess how health care is delivered. Everyone wants to provide better quality health care at lower costs, but that’s hard to accomplish when fumbling about with poor data.
With better data, analysts might find problem patterns that can be changed and best practices that can be shared more broadly.
The act contains privacy protections to ensure Medicare recipients do not become targets of discrimination or marketing campaigns. The latter is particularly important because most Medicare recipients are senior citizens who often are targeted by manipulative marketing and scams.
It’s nice to see Wisconsin’s delegation leading the charge on this. Our state recognizes the value of sharing health information so people can make informed decisions.
On Jan. 1, a new state health care transparency law took effect that empowers patients to find out how much providers charge for services.
Information is power for patients and for the people who would improve America’s health care system.