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Reporters not asking right questions on health care reform

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Johns Hopkins University president William Brody, in a speech at the National Press Club on Friday, said journalists are not asking presidential candidates the right questions about health care reform.

“If you’re only reporting cost and coverage issues, you‘re missing a big part of the story,â€? Brody said.

Brody said that almost no one — candidates or reporters — is addressing equally essential elements of the health care puzzle: the quality and consistency of care; the complexity of medical practice today; and the role of chronic disease, the treatment of which threatens to monopolize health care resources. These “three C’sâ€? of health care — consistency, complexity and chronic disease — need to be front and center in any reform efforts, Brody said.

“The fact is, cost and coverage solutions alone will not solve our problems,â€? Brody said. “We can’t provide health insurance for all unless we control the spiraling costs of health care. But we won’t control costs until we deal with these other issues.â€?

Brody said he will help get the right questions on the table by participating in a planned series of televised conversations with presidential candidates. Brody said that Johns Hopkins is working with the nationally distributed Retirement Living TV network and the National Coalition on Health Care to produce and air Presidential Spotlight on Healthcare ’08: Which Way Forward? during the primary season. In half-hour discussions, Brody will provide the presidential candidates a platform to explain their health care proposals in terms that address all age groups of Americans.

Brody urged reporters and voters to question presidential candidates closely on how they propose to bring rationality and order to what he described as the industrialized world’s most inefficient medical system.

“At The Johns Hopkins Hospital, we have to bill more than 700 different payers/insurers, such as HMOs, PPOs, Medicare and Medicaid,â€? he said. “Each one has its own set of rules regarding what services are covered, the level of reimbursement, and what kind of documentation and pre-approval is required. Nationally, this kind of inefficiency costs patients billions of dollars every year.â€?

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