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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 10, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 2
Brody on Media and Health Care Coverage

President says reporters, candidates not addressing the right questions

By Dennis O'Shea

Even a marathon 2008 presidential campaign hasn't been long enough for reporters to get answers to key questions about the candidates' health care proposals, Johns Hopkins University President William R. Brody said on Friday.

In fact, the news media aren't even asking the right questions, he said.

Brody, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, urged reporters to push their health care policy coverage beyond the obvious questions about the price of health care and the availability of insurance coverage.

"If you're only reporting cost and coverage issues, you're missing a big part of the story," Brody said.

Brody said that almost no one — candidates or reporters — is addressing equally essential elements of the health care puzzle: the quality and consistency of care; the complexity of medical practice today; and the role of chronic disease, the treatment of which threatens to monopolize health care resources. These "three C's" of health care — consistency, complexity and chronic disease — need to be front and center in any reform efforts, Brody said.

"The fact is, cost and coverage solutions alone will not solve our problems," Brody said. "We can't provide health insurance for all unless we control the spiraling costs of health care. But we won't control costs until we deal with these other issues."

Brody said he will help get the right questions on the table by participating in a planned series of televised conversations with presidential candidates. Johns Hopkins, he said, is working with the nationally distributed Retirement Living TV network and the National Coalition on Health Care to produce and air Presidential Spotlight on Healthcare '08: Which Way Forward? during the primary season. In half-hour discussions, Brody will provide the presidential candiates a platform to explain their health care proposals in terms that address all age groups of Americans.

According to Brad Knight, president of Retirement Living TV, "More than 30 percent of voters will be within retirement age on our next president's watch, and there is nothing more important than simplified electronic medical records and quality of care."

Brody urged reporters and voters to question presidential candidates closely on how they propose to bring rationality and order to what he described as the industrialized world's most inefficient medical system.

"At The Johns Hopkins Hospital, we have to bill more than 700 different payers/insurers, such as HMOs, PPOs, Medicare and Medicaid," he said. "Each one has its own set of rules regarding what services are covered, the level of reimbursement and what kind of documentation and pre-approval is required. Nationally, this kind of inefficiency costs patients billions of dollars every year."

Brody, a medical doctor and former radiologist in chief at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, has been president of The Johns Hopkins University since 1996. A former provost of the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota, Brody has also been professor of radiology and of electrical engineering at Stanford University and a co-founder of three medical device companies. He was president and chief executive officer of Resonex from 1984 to 1987.

For the full text of Brody's speech, go to:


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