Today, the Center for American Progress Action Fund hosted a forum to discuss how the Medicare program can inform this year’s health care reform debate. After the event, ThinkProgress sat down with Thomas Scully, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2001-2003, and asked him to respond to conservatives (like Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)) who argue that health information technology and comparative effectiveness research would ration health care:
I had a lot of those fights because the reality is the government should be able to look at what’s the appropriate level for PET scans or MRIs?…You know, Medicare makes decisions on coverage all the time. I made decisions on coverage all the time based on what I thought was not – on comparative effectiveness research. You got to do it the right way. But I think – I’ve always been a big fan of comparative effectiveness research if done correctly.
Scully dismissed the likes of Sally Pipes and Betsy McCaughey as “just noise” and argued that since Republicans are in the minority, “their job is to hurl attacks,” just as some Democrats did during the debate surrounding Medicare Part D.
Asked if the odds of health reform are better this year, Scully predicted that “the odds are lower” of passing health reform now “because the economy is in such bad shape, I think it’s going to be very difficult to finance this thing.” “I don’t think that the core people that are really in the weeds of health care in the Senate is as big as it was…I don’t think there is a group of 20 guys that really are health care wonks like there was 15 years ago,” Scully explained.
During the panel discussion, however, Scully admitted that the world would have been a better place had Congress passed President Clinton’s health reform plan. “They made a lot of strategic errors back then…but the core issue was trying to fix the commercial insurance option…which is the right thing to do, they probably went too far… but had the plan passed back then, the fundamental concept behind it was regional purchasing cooperatives with a better structured insurance market, which is exactly what we’re talking about right now.”
Transcript: Read more