TIPSHEET: Vanderbilt experts available to talk about the health care reform debate

William Turner, Former Obama health care advisor, Betts Chair and Professor of Education and Human Development, Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Turner, an expert on mental health policy and family therapy, served from 2007-2008 in the office of then-senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow.

Turner can discuss both the evolution and history of health care reform and the key issues he believes are being lost in the current debate over how the nation will pay for health care. “What’s most disappointing is that we’re really only talking about how to pay for health care,” Turner said. “Though costs are enormously important, what I heard from every physicians and nurses group during my time on Capitol Hill was the need to overhaul health care in general–from how we provide care, to workforce issues, to mental health. The debate needs to be broader than costs.” Turner has served on scientific study sections at the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Larry Van Horn, associate professor of health care management and director of health care programs, Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management

The continuing focus of health care reform should be on how to spend less money and deliver better care, said Van Horn, who is writing a book with Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper on the business of health care. He has conducted extensive research on health care organizations, managerial incentives in nonprofit hospitals and the conduct of managed care.

“We cannot afford the current consumption of health care services,” Van Horn said. “The cultural focus is on finding someone else to pay with no accountability for lifestyle choices and their impact on health care demand.” Health care currently accounts for 17.5 percent of the gross national product and is predicted to rise to 25 percent within 15 years. At 22 percent of the GNP, he says, drastic changes, such as defense cuts, would be needed to pay for health care.

James Blumstein, University Professor of constitutional law and health law and policy; director, Health Policy Center, Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies

Blumstein ranks among the nation’s most prominent scholars of health law, law and medicine, and voting rights. As founder of the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies (VIPPS) and director of its Health Policy Center, Professor Blumstein has served as the principal investigator on numerous grants concerning managed care, hospital management and medical malpractice. He co-authored a major study on TennCare, one of the first statewide experiments in universally enrolling Medicaid patients in managed care. He has been elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and is co-editor of a leading casebook on health law and policy.

Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of political science

The critical element now is getting some kind of bill out of the Senate, negotiating the details and then coming out with a package that will pass the House, says Oppenheimer, who teaches and writes about the legislative process, political parties and congressional elections. He co-authored the award-winning book Sizing Up the Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation. In addition, he is co-editor of Congress Reconsidered, now in its eighth edition.

“Part of the argument that the leadership will use is that this isn’t closure. This is just a start, but it’s a very big first step,” Oppenheimer said. “Closure happens when you defeat something or don’t get something passed.” He says circumstances will change during the long implementation and that’s when the legislation will be fine-tuned. “It’s not the last word,” he said.

Michael Burcham, clinical professor of entrepreneurship, Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management

Burcham is also former president of ParadigmHealth, a specialty care and disease management firm. So far, ParadigmHealth has managed more than 150,000 patients nationwide, focusing primarily on medically complex infants and patients with late-stage cancer, end-of-life care issues and multiple traumas.

When it comes to the issue of health care co-ops, Burcham says they’re a “kinder, gentler” way to talk about the “public option.” He thinks that co-ops may make a reform package easier for conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans to swallow, but many major stumbling blocks remain, including the cost of covering millions of uninsured individuals. “To accomplish that, somebody’s taxes will probably have to go up — a tough vote even in good economic times,” said Burcham.

Media Contact: Amy Wolf, (615) 322-NEWS