By Jeff E. Schapiro, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., is joining 10 other freshman Democrats in pushing for revisions to the health-care overhaul that could save patients and taxpayers money.
"The driving reason we have to do health care is because the cost . . . is crippling our economy and making it harder for business to be competitive," Warner said in a telephone interview.
Warner, elected last year, and the other first-term Democrats will introduce amendments to the Senate bill today that, among other things, would control reimbursements to doctors, hospitals and others.
The proposed revisions also would give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services greater authority to curb fraud and abuse within Medicare by more closely monitoring spending patterns. "The folks who recently got elected believe that the cost issue needs more attention, and we want to make sure our voices are heard," Warner said from Washington.
Warner is attempting a balancing act in the health-care debate, trying to simultaneously accommodate his party's liberal base and Republican-leaning business interests with which he has close ties.
Skeptical about a public option because it could prove a budget-buster, Warner has acknowledged the need to strengthen some services, but he worries that the cost to the government of health-services care will balloon the federal deficit.
"I don't like the notion of something with a long-term fiscal implication," Warner said of a public option.
But Warner said he favors competition in heath-care pricing, and that Washington may be able to promote it through an unspecified short-term initiative.
The freshmen's package would broaden the authority of a Medicare-cost oversight board to monitor all health-care pricing and recommend how it might be controlled, as well as urge a uniform approach to billing and how payments are made.
A major feature for curbing costs: require that providers are reimbursed for the quality of care, rather than volume. Billing standards for measuring quality would be developed by a public-private organization, the National Quality Forum.