Illuminating Health Care and Education

By May 12, 2007Health Care

NAM President John Engler spent part of Friday morning with the board of directors of the American Home Furnishings Alliance, the furniture and upholstery manufacturing industry’s trade association. During the Q&A period, the topic of health care came up; it almost always does.

The question was whether more NAM members, despairing of high costs of employee health care, are advocating a government-run, single-payer health care system. You do encounter that sentiment, Engler acknowledged, but it’s a minority. Most manufacturers recognize it would be inviting other problems and costs.

You start off right away with the understanding that systems like Medicare and Medicaid are in deep trouble, and some of those costs there are ultimately coming back on to business in the form of taxation and government spending.

The boss followed with an argument for increased transparency and use of information technology, drawing a connection between the cost and quality problems facing education and health care we hadn’t heard before.

It’s interesting to me that the two systems that are the most troubled are public health and public education. And they share a couple of things in common. They are the least transparent of the big systems, they’re the hardest to sort of crack the code on where all the money is going, how do I measure the quality. All the metrics that you [the manufacturers] use routinely on a daily basis, almost none of those are being used with any frequency and certainly any relish in those public-run sectors.

A timely discussion given HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt’s appearance on this weekend’s “America’s Business with Mike Hambrick,” our NAM radio program. Leavitt is pushing transparency and technology, the cornerstones of value-driven health care — giving consumers the tools and information they need to guide their own care.