March 11, 2011
Former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, who currently serves as President of the University of Miami, said the real challenge in implementing genuine health care reform is to address the major cost drivers—“the over-use of the system, the introduction of new, expensive scientific breakthroughs, and Americans’ demand for the best without wanting to pay for it.” Ms. Shalala also addressed education reform, which she said is “becoming synonymous with beating up teachers in this country. At this rate, you have to ask how we plan to recruit the next generation.” She said the key lies in changing perceptions about the profession “so that it is seen as a good job with a good career track.” When asked why the healthcare debate has been so raucous, she replied: “Well the reason is that we don’t have the smoky back rooms anymore. You used to be able to haul someone in and break legs… The Obama Administration in my judgment was pretty shrewd. They chose to throw money in and get everyone covered. What they did was pick the low-hanging fruit.” Now that they are facing the cost side of the balance sheet, the choices are more difficult: “Who are you going to take the money away from? The hospitals? The lawyers?” She expressed support for addressing the problem of medical malpractice, noting that the most significant cost impact of the current system is not so much the litigation itself as the excessive defensive medicine it generates.