HMS Dean Criticizes Health Care

Last week Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey S. Flier gave the debate over health care reform a “failing grade.” In a Wall Street Journal editorial, Flier criticized the nature of the debate, the economic logic of the spending plan, the efficacy of proposed legislation, and the plan’s transparency.

“I wanted to express my personal opinions to stimulate a more vigorous discussion of the issues,” Flier wrote in an e-mailed statement.

“Informed debate should characterize a community such as [Harvard], where we have leaders in the field of health policy at many schools where innumerable individuals are contributing scholarship and opinions on every aspect of this discussion,” Flier wrote.

Flier, an endocrinologist and researcher, began his article by criticizing the nature of Congressional healthcare debates.

“Those of us for whom the central issue is health—not politics—have been left in the lurch,” he wrote.

For Flier, the proposed legislation does not do enough to solve the underlying issues of the healthcare system and focuses too much on reducing the number of uninsured.

Flier’s editorial was published on Nov. 17, the day before Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev) introduced his version of the overhauling healthcare legislation, a plan with an $848 billion price tag.

The need for innovation and research in healthcare reform has been echoed by prominent economists, according to Alan M. Garber ’77, director of Stanford’s Center for Health Policy.

Garber co-wrote a letter to President Barack Obama about controlling cost in healthcare. The letter was signed by 20 economists, including two Nobel Laureates, Kenneth J. Arrow and Daniel L. McFadden. A third Nobel Laureate, William F. Sharpe, asked for his name to be added to the list of signers.

“There is a growing consensus that such research should study better ways to deliver health care and to design health insurance,” Garber wrote in an e-mailed statement. “There is a controversy about whether the legislative proposals go far enough to control costs or to promote innovation.”

Garber did not take as harsh a view as Flier did on the state of the national healthcare debate.

“I’d give [the health reform effort] an incomplete [grade],” Garber said. “Whether it is fiscally responsible must be judged in the context of other federal activity, such as other legislation directed at Medicare revenues and payments.”

“So that incomplete grade may remain for a very long time,” he added.

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