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Now Obama Can Target Health-Care Quality

Authors: Peter R. Orszag, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Ezekiel Emanuel
December 11, 2013


In the past two months, Medicare spending has been lower than in October and November of 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It's an extraordinary feat that continues a several-years-long streak of deceleration in health costs.

If this streak keeps going, the U.S. will reap enormous economic benefits: a better-balanced federal budget in the long term, more take-home pay for workers, greater competitiveness for U.S. industries, and more room in state budgets for other kinds of spending.

Yet achieving better value in health care requires setting clear goals. In the past month, we saw President Barack Obama call on his administration to make HealthCare.gov function better. The White House set a deadline -- Nov. 30 -- and a measurable goal -- capacity for 800,000 users a day. The result was a "tech surge" that galvanized public and private efforts to reach this goal. And it worked.

This experience demonstrated the president's unique ability to mobilize a national effort by setting well-defined goals. We urge Obama to set in motion a similar effort to reduce health-care costs.

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