“Analysis”: the Consciousness of Success
The zero sum game of “more versus less” is alive and well in our nation’s capital, where Congress and the President remain gripped in a furious fight over the course of federal spending. All the while we keep missing the most important question, “how.”
Over the last five years, we have seen both sides play out. Large increases in federal spending after the Great Recession later led to widespread charges of waste, fraud and abuse. Similarly, the “sequester,” put in place by Congress to contain Federal spending, foolishly cut programs across-the-board without any consideration for context and priority, and was ultimately deemed to be similarly unworkable.
It is not that we haven’t been trying hard to resolve our national fiscal issues but rather that we have been asking the wrong question to reach that goal. The real question is “how.”
The best example of this comes from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which this week, for the first time, released doctor-specific information about Medicare payments from 2012 forward. Medicare provides medical coverage to the disabled and citizens over 65 on a fee-for-service model, processing over one billion claims per year. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare spending is projected to double to more than $1 trillion by 2023, creating significant pressure on the federal budget and forcing difficult and unpleasant choices on spending and taxation.
The release of the Medicare data confirms a tangible third path for policy-makers as the nation faces these choices – the ability to ask the “actionable how.” Journalists were the first to intuitively understand this, jumping into the Medicare numbers with ad hoc analyses of raw data that provided a striking portrait of Medicare spending.
Fact: Just two percent of Medicare’s 880,000 physicians accounted for nearly 25 percent of the payments.
Now, imagine what a sustained and deeply comprehensive analysis of the billions of records in Medicare could provide in terms of insight. Expand even further and apply that concept across the federal government and consider the possibilities for informed choice.
Modern technology has provided highly capable, low cost, commercially available, analytical tools that can not only deliver a vivid, real-time picture of resource deployment for senior executives, but as a result, help establish a fresh baseline that can serve to reform practices and procedures, improve service delivery and expand transparency while lowering costs.
This is the foundation of a “third path” to evaluate our fiscal challenges – one that holds the promise not simply to resolve stubborn political problems, but to effectively focus government services and repair public confidence in the wise use of its tax dollars.