It’s All About the Cost
Jul-18-09 Abandoning the carrot approach, President Obama is using the “big stick” of an August recess deadline to coax Congress to the finish line on health care reform. But use of a harsh implement often has unintended consequences. Animal welfare groups claim that whipping horses in the closing stage of a race is counter-productive and is likely to reduce the chance of winning. They contend that these horses are more apt to veer off line, placing them and others in danger. The same holds true for Congress, as the pressure to ram through a $1 trillion plus health care bill in a matter of days is fracturing Congressional Democrats and solidifying Republican opposition. A handful of conservative Democrats in the Ways and Means Committee voted against the House health care reform bill during mark-up, and several others are threatening to prevent the Energy and Commerce Committee from approving the bill. In the Senate, the President’s stick, coupled with his directive to refrain from taxing employer-provided health insurance, has brought the process to a slow trot. It is difficult to see how the Senate Finance Committee can produce a proposal, merge it with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee version, and complete debate on the bill before August 8. Why is the “big stick” proving to be so counter-productive? It’s all about the cost. It simply is not easy to find $1 trillion. Paying for reform by imposing hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases during an economic recession gives most elected officials pause, even if those taxes are limited to the “wealthy.” Many in Congress are concerned about the appropriate level of government involvement in the health care marketplace and decision making. Some worry about the long-term budgetary effects of creating a new government health plan. They also fear that the government will be under pressure to ration care when cost pressures become too great. Another challenge is the Congressional Budget Office, which is the final arbiter of the budget impact of all legislation. Federal investments in technology have fallen victim to CBO’s strict scoring rules over the years. While CBO recognizes that health information technology can increase the efficiency of the health care sector and improve the quality of care and patient outcomes, CBO has been cautious about translating those benefits into significant savings to the federal budget. Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the role that biometrics can play in producing some of these savings. Biometric technologies can facilitate the use of electronic health records by making patients feel more comfortable with the concept, knowing that access to their sensitive medical information is restricted and secure. This, in turn, will make it easier for health professionals to coordinate patient care and provide more effective, less costly treatment. Biometric technologies also can assist in preventing fraud and abuse in government programs. Expanding health coverage to tens of millions of people is a daunting task. The prospect of duplicate enrollments and other attempts to game the system must be addressed, and biometrics offer a solution. The industry should take full advantage of the uncertainty and delays in the health reform process to educate policymakers about biometrics and persuade them that you have answers to some of their dilemmas. Offers of assistance are always viewed more favorably by legislators
than demands. Cynthia Berry, Bryan Cave LLP, July 18, 2009 FindBIOMETRICS.com has comprehensive information on signature recognition solution providers, please visit us.