Health experts launch new group on Medicare reform

"The research will have nothing to do with our particular ideologies or our histories on different proposals. We want data on improving the program."

Holtz-Eakin will lead the group with Ken Thorpe, who served in the Clinton-era Department of Health and Human Services.

The two promised studies "within a year's time" on the profile of the Medicare program and clinical explanations for its cost growth. Initial research projects will also look at utilization patterns and how Medicare Advantage functions, they said.

Thorpe, now chairman of Emory University's Department of Health Policy, emphasized that an interest in clinical detail will animate the research.

"It's all too easy to discuss entitlement reform purely in budgetary terms," he said.

"The large bulk of our spending goes to one patient — the overweight, hypertensive diabetic with bad cholesterol, pulmonary disease, asthma, back problems and depression. He's seeing two primary-care doctors, multiple specialists, and taking multiple medications.

"Talking about that guy goes beyond most discussions we hear about entitlement reform," Thorpe said.

The board will also include Katherine Baicker, Jim Capretta, Steven Lieberman and Kavita Patel. Its seed money comes from United Health Group and Humana.