Tommy Thompson on the State Children's Health Insurance Program

Likening Medicare reform to base closings, Tommy Thompson sees a tough road ahead.
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Topic: Tommy Thompson on the State Children's Health Insurance Program

Tommy Thompson: Medicare is going to be extremely difficult to fix and there are real partisan differences on how to fix Medicare. But when you look at a system that’s going broke that is cost about $450 billion a year and going up about 10% a year, you got to realize that there has to be some really tough decisions making. And so, on that one, I would set up a base closing commission, and what I mean by that is the way we close military bases in America, we have an equal number of Republicans and equal number of Democrats sitting down and saying this base can be closed, because if you leave it up to Congress, no Congressman will ever vote for a base to be closed. But if you have a commission and you can only vote it up or down, you’re able to succeed. And so on Medicare, I would do the same thing, I would put a Medicare base closing commission together which is going to make the tough decisions such as age, such as taxes, such as when you’re on your death bed, what sort of treatments do you get, and when you get in the last 12 months of your life where 30% of the cost of Medicare dollars are expended. And these are tough decision no Republican or Democrat will make those kinds of decision, but if you have a base closing commission in which you got in front of you is a list of things that have to be done and you can only vote it up or down, we have a chance to save Medicare. The second thing you have to do is you have to fix SCHIP. This is the program for poor children and you got to be able to put together a bipartisan support on SCHIP and I think that’s imminently doable. And the third thing you have to do is you have to fix what we call the reimbursement formula for doctors. It has been postponed now for five years, and every year that it’s postponed, it’s causing more money and that’s got to be fixed. And then number 4, we got to do something about Information Technology and have national standards for an electronic medical record and put the cost to credits in there that’s going to be the inducement for doctors to use electronic medical records and actually prescribe using a computer instead of handwriting. I make the joke that doctors have to get straight A’s to get into medical school except for one grade and that’s handwriting, and their handwriting hasn’t improved at all in the last 50 years. And 8% of the doctors are all that’s e-prescribing, and we have 98,000 people that died last year from medical mistakes, 50% from the wrong medicine, wrong amount to wrong times, to wrong person. So, if you really start e-prescribing, you can reduce that, those mistakes overnight or you can cut it in half at a minimum, if not 80 to 90%. And then the next and final thing is how do we really educate America to eat properly, exercise and take care of themselves and that’s where chronic illnesses come in, because most of chronic illnesses are either self-inflicted or exaggerated and exacerbated by what we do, what we put into our bodies and our failure to exercise. It’s not rocket science to know that you know if you properly eat the foods that you should and exercise you’re going to live a happier and healthier life, but how many of us really do that, and that’s the kind of stuff that we have to do as a society and as a government.

Recorded On: 10/30/08