Dr. Jonathan Gruber: Can we control costs in healthcare reform?

February 4, 2013 by Sony Salzman

Former White House advisor says if cost control measures can be implemented successfully, Obamacare will enjoy as much support nationally as Romenycare has in MA.

Harvard Law School

Harvard Law School rounded up a panel of experts to discuss some of the implications of healthcare reform in the 1st annual Health Law in Review panel discussion.

Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist and a healthcare reform advisor to President Barack Obama, said that many of the cost control measure the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act encourages, such as involving consumers in insurance price-point shopping or promoting provider reimbursement based on health behavior of the enrollees, come with "thorny legal issues."

"It’s important to be realistic about the fact that implementing this is not going to be easy," Gruber said. "It’s going to be a mess."

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"Social equilibrium" is going to be the most difficult hurdle – running a nationwide campaign, similar to what was seen in 2006 in Massachusetts, to make the individual mandate a widely accepted notion, Gruber said.

Einer Elhauge, Harvard Law School professor and former chairman of the president’s Antitrust Advisory Committee, also spoke at the event. He pointed to 2 ACA committees that might have major impacts on the way reform is implemented.
According to Elhauge, the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Innovation and the Independent Medicare Advisory Board may increasingly regulate firms' interactions with physicians and assign a value to each treatment or procedure. Elhuage favors giving employers the ability attract enrollees with a separate risk-adjusted payment that must be spent on care for the entire group.