The Future of Academic Medical Centers

Brookings Institution Press
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Academic medical centers provide cutting edge acute care, train tomorrow's physicians, and carry out research that will expand the range of treatable and curable illnesses. But these centers themselves may need urgent care—experts generally agree that many are suffering acute—even life-threatening—financial distress. Many academic medical centers are suffering for several reasons: in-patient admissions are down, as many procedures that once required a hospital stay are now performed on an out-patient basis or in a physician's office ; managed care plans have negotiated discounted fees that cut hospital operating margins; the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 curtailed Medicare reimbursements, lowered margins and pushed some into the red; the revolution in information technology is imposing large new capital costs; and the character of medical education is receiving its most thorough review in decades. While there is a general consensus that medical centers are under pressure, experts disagree about the depth and pervasiveness of the current financial distress. Are they whining about financial pressures other, less-favored sectors find routine; or is the high quality American teaching hospital becoming an endangered species—that could face extinction if nothing is done. Because academic medical centers perform such important jobs, it is critical to determine the true nature and depth of their current financial problems—and then fashion analytically sound and politically sustainable solutions. This book brings together chief executive officers of major medical centers, university presidents, senior members of Congressional and executive office staffs, and leading analysts. These experts address the key issues and prescribe remedies both regulatory and legislative to ensure that the teaching hospital remains a picture of financial health. Contributors include Nancy Kane (Harvard School of Public Health), Jamie Reuter (Institute for Health Care Research Policy, Georgetown University), Peter van Etten (Juvenile Diabetes Foundation), Ralph Muller (University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System), James Robinson (School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley), David Blumenthal (Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital), Edward Miller (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Spencer Foreman (Montefiore Medical Center), Lawrence Lewin (Lewin Group), Gail Wilensky (Project HOPE), Robert Dickler (American Association of Medical Colleges), and Kenneth Shine (Institute of Medicine).
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About the author

Henry J. Aaron is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Chair. Among his many books are Can We Say No? The Challenge of Rationing Health Care, with William B. Schwartz and Melissa Cox (Brookings, 2006), and Reforming Medicare: Options,Tradeoffs, and Opportunities, written with Jeanne Lambrew (Brookings, 2008).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
May 13, 2004
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Pages
112
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ISBN
9780815798361
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Language
English
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Genres
Medical / Health Policy
Medical / Research
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Why did President Clinton's efforts to reform the financing of American health care fail? For years to come, politicians and scholars of public policy will revisit the debate over Clinton's health care plan. What did planners do right? And what did they do wrong? How can the mistakes of that experience be avoided in the future? What steps can now be taken to achieve some measure of reform in smaller pieces? In The Problem That Won't Go Away, economists, political scientists, sociologists, public opinion experts, and government staff offer answers to these and other crucial questions. They recount the history of the Clinton health care plan, present several alternative strategies the administration might have pursued, and conclude that none was likely to achieve the administration's goals of universal coverage and cost containment. Many support the view that the administration, Congress, and the nation lacked the political consensus and the information to credibly describe the effects of any single bill to reform the U.S. health care system. In that case, was the only option available to the administration to reach for goals far more modest than those it sought? Health care financing as a national political issue will not go away. Pressure to cut public spending to balance the budget means that medicare and medicaid will stay in the legislative spotlight; the retirement of the baby-boom generation in the beginning of the next century promises large increases in the cost of medicare; and a flood of new and costly medical technologies will continue to put financial pressure on everyone responsible for paying for health insurance. But, as this book illustrates, the nature of the debate in the years after the demise of the Clinton plan will be altogether different from that of the past several decades.
A New York Times bestseller/Washington Post Notable Book of 2017/NPR Best Books of 2017/Wall Street Journal Best Books of 2017 

"This book will serve as the definitive guide to the past and future of health care in America.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene  

At a moment of drastic political upheaval, An American Sickness is a shocking investigation into our dysfunctional healthcare system - and offers practical solutions to its myriad problems.

In these troubled times, perhaps no institution has unraveled more quickly and more completely than American medicine. In only a few decades, the medical system has been overrun by organizations seeking to exploit for profit the trust that vulnerable and sick Americans place in their healthcare. Our politicians have proven themselves either unwilling or incapable of reining in the increasingly outrageous costs faced by patients, and market-based solutions only seem to funnel larger and larger sums of our money into the hands of corporations. Impossibly high insurance premiums and inexplicably large bills have become facts of life; fatalism has set in. Very quickly Americans have been made to accept paying more for less. How did things get so bad so fast?

Breaking down this monolithic business into the individual industries—the hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and drug manufacturers—that together constitute our healthcare system, Rosenthal exposes the recent evolution of American medicine as never before. How did healthcare, the caring endeavor, become healthcare, the highly profitable industry? Hospital systems, which are managed by business executives, behave like predatory lenders, hounding patients and seizing their homes. Research charities are in bed with big pharmaceutical companies, which surreptitiously profit from the donations made by working people. Patients receive bills in code, from entrepreneurial doctors they never even saw. 

The system is in tatters, but we can fight back. Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal doesn't just explain the symptoms, she diagnoses and treats the disease itself. In clear and practical terms, she spells out exactly how to decode medical doublespeak, avoid the pitfalls of the pharmaceuticals racket, and get the care you and your family deserve. She takes you inside the doctor-patient relationship and to hospital C-suites, explaining step-by-step the workings of a system badly lacking transparency. This is about what we can do, as individual patients, both to navigate the maze that is American healthcare and also to demand far-reaching reform. An American Sickness is the frontline defense against a healthcare system that no longer has our well-being at heart.
In the early 1960s America was in a confident mood and embarked on a series of efforts to solve the problems of poverty, racial discrimination, unemployment, and inequality of educational opportunity. The programs of the Great Society and the War on Poverty were undergirded by a broad consensus about what our problems as a nation were and how we should solve them. But by the early seventies both political and scholarly tides had shifted. Americans were divided and uncertain about what to do abroad, fearful of military inferiority, and pessimistic about the capacity of government to deal affirmatively with domestic problems. A new administration renounced the rhetoric of the Great Society and changed the emphasis of many programs. On the scholarly front, new research called into question the old faiths on which liberal legislation had been based.

In this book, the sixteenth volume in the Brookings series in Social Economics, Henry Aaron describes both the initial consensus and its subsequent decline. He examines the evolution of attitude and pronouncements by scholars and popular writers on the role of the federal government and its capacity to bring about beneficial change in three broad areas: poverty and discrimination, education and training, and unemployment and inflation. He argues that the political eclipse of the Great Society depended more on events external to it—war in Vietnam, dissolution of the civil rights coalition, and, finally, the Watergate scandal and all its repercussions—than on its intrinsic failings. Aaron concludes that both the initial commitment to use national polices to solve social and economic problems and the subsequent disillusionment of scholars and laymen alike rest largely on preconceptions and faiths that have little to do with research themselves.

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