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A Tale Of Two Tactics

Fri, 09/18/2009 - 8:31am
Jeff Reinke
While it could have been the customary chill in the autumn air or my daughter going back to school, it was actually a couple of recent news items that sent me back to my high school football days. More specifically, I recalled a sign we kept in the locker room that read; “Are you conditioning yourself, or will you succumb to your conditions?” Motivational and preparedness ideologies aside, it’s an interesting question to ask right now if you’re aligned with the surgical field.

While it could have been the customary chill in the autumn air or my daughter going back to school, it was actually a couple of recent news items that sent me back to my high school football days. More specifically, I recalled a sign we kept in the locker room that read; “Are you conditioning yourself, or will you succumb to your conditions?” Motivational and preparedness ideologies aside, it’s an interesting question to ask right now if you’re aligned with the surgical field.

What sent me back to memories of taped ankles and Friday night lights was a news item that discussed how, in their efforts to help fund President Obama’s proposed healthcare reform package, the Senate Finance Committee is asking the medical device industry as a whole to offer up about $40 billion in various fees over the next 10 years. The amount levied against each company would be based on their share of market. As you might expect and understand, companies aren’t jumping through hoops to hand over these sums, especially with such difficultly defined parameters guiding their implementation.

This tactic seems to stem from lawmakers feeling that medical device manufacturers swung and missed when their proposal for helping to fund system changes, which could potentially benefit them via streamlined patient payment and insurance programs that would get funds to hospitals more quickly and cost-efficiently, entailed higher taxes on hospital purchasing groups that negotiate lower prices on these supplier’s products. Basically, I think it’s a situation where medical supplier companies, like those in any industry, are trying to protect their profits, while the government is simply going after the biggest, and therefore easiest to identify, taxable targets.

The biggest concern I see is the impact that surgical product research and development would suffer as a result of $4 billion in fees and taxes being extracted from this collective over the next 10 years. This could especially be felt in new minimally invasive surgical developments that do a great deal in their own right to cut procedural costs via shorter surgeries, reduced hospital stays and minimized long-term post-operative care.

The point of that poster in our locker room was to avoid the temptation of missing a day in the weight room, or taking it easy during practice. Sure, there was short-term benefit in avoiding the pain or struggle, but come game time, a player wouldn’t be as successful because they didn’t take the necessary steps to prepare. It makes me wonder if such a dramatic step as the one above is allowing our healthcare system to succumb to short-term conditions at the detriment of long-term, more beneficial system advancement and preparedness.

What's your take? E-mail jeff.reinke@advantagemedia.com

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