Anytime there’s a proposal on the table to cut $2 trillion in healthcare spending over 10 years, someone’s financial ox is likely to be gored. Thus, laboratory administrators and pathologists have reason to be skeptical about this development.

It was announced by President Obama at a White House press conference on May 11. Flanked by a cast of luminaries from across healthcare, Obama announced that a variety of stakeholders-described by one reporter as including “a doctors’ lobby, drug makers, hospitals, insurance companies and health care workers”-would work together to reduce the increase in health spending by 1.5% during each of the next 10 years. It was a superlative political theater and the photo op made the news cycle, from newspapers to 24-hour news channel coverage.

During the press conference, Obama stated that it was “a historic day, a watershed event,” because all of these various healthcare factions were offering to contribute to the proposed cost reductions. Obama further stated that these savings “will help us take the next and most important step-comprehensive health reform.”

In searching the press coverage of the event, few details were disclosed as to how this consortium of strange-often competing-bedfellows would successfully cut $2 trillion of spending during the coming decade. At The Wall Street Journal, reporter John E. Mulligan described his understanding how this goal might be achieved. He wrote “The coalition gave Mr. Obama a series of proposals-including simplified billing, restructured payments to hospitals and better use of computer technology-that they said would cut the rate of health-care inflation by 1.5% a year.”

As lab managers and pathologists know, the healthcare industry has already spent two decades attempting to use these same approaches to cut healthcare spending in ways that directly benefit them, but with little consequence. Given the paucity of details and specifics about how the “10-year/$2 trillion” goals will be pursued, it is no surprise that most commentators, whether from the left or the right, were uniformly unimpressed with this latest healthcare reform development.

For the moment, it is likely that the laboratory testing profession will not be directly involved in consequences from what has been described as “mostly a public relations exercise.” However, the fact that President Obama is devoting personal time and attention to engage this wide spectrum of influential leaders in healthcare is a powerful statement. It demonstrates how healthcare reform is a major goal of his administration. Thus, subscribers and readers of Dark Daily will want to keep a watchful eye on what happens next at the White House on this subject. It may be that major health reform ends up as the year’s biggest political story!

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