Health Care in Speeches Tonight --Grade on Managing Health Care Costs: Incomplete

President Barack Obama spoke to a joint session of Congress this evening, and healthcare was on his mind. He pointed out that “the cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform.” He credited Congress with passing an extension of S-CHIP to expand health coverage among children, and committed to investments in electronic medical records and cancer research. The President called preventive care “one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.” He pointed out that reforming health care was critical to controlling the federal deficit in the future, and promised additional health benefits for veterans. Obama promised to bring together a diverse group starting next week to work on health care reform.

Bobby Jindal, Republican Governor of Louisiana, also said we must “address the crisis in health care.” He objected to government-run health care, and suggested that we should “put aside partisan politics and make our system of private medicine affordable for every one of our citizens.”

The “managing health care score” this evening?

Few details here – Obama gets high grades for addressing access, and he is promoting investments that could substantially improve American health care. However, EMRs, cancer research and preventive care buy us both increased Quality Adjusted Life Years AND higher costs. EMRs increase quality and are neutral to cost-increasing, cancer research increases innovation (and the pipeline of new expensive drugs), and few types of preventive care within the medical system actually save money. With the exception of childhood immunizations, preventive care saves lives at an acceptable cost; prevention doesn’t save lives AND save money

No details at all in the briefer Republican response. The current private system is not delivering low costs or high quality – and I’m not sure the Republicans are reading the electorate correctly in their opposition to some government intervention. Jindal might have laid out a formula for change, as opposed to the usual exhortations to work together and confidence that we’ll get different results from our current system in the future.

Both speeches rate an “incomplete” in terms of managing health care costs.