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Health Leaders Excited About National Health Care Reform

Health Leaders Excited About National Health Care Reform

November 21, 2008

On Thursday afternoon, the New England Alliance for Children’s Health (NEACH), the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and PricewaterhouseCoopers hosted a national broadcast of a town hall meeting with a panel of Congressional leaders, health care policy experts and a senior health care advisor to President-elect Obama, followed by a panel discussion with Boston-based health policy leaders. Moderated by Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, the national conversation addressed how health care reform proposals will be transformed into policies that work for American businesses and families.

National Conversation Participants:
Chris Jennings, a long-time health policy strategist, expressed his excitement for the prospect of health reform and the work of all the stakeholders to achieve consensus. Jennings commented that one-third of health spending does not improve outcomes. Jennings also emphasized the moral and economic imperative to provide coverage to all Americans.

R. Bruce Josten, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, raised concerns from the employer community. According to Josten, employers are “desperate for health care reform;” health care reform proposals must improve health information technology and coordination of care, target solutions to increase coverage, address ERISA, and revisit the tort system.

David Levy, M.D., of PricewaterhouseCoopers, reported that Obama’s proposed plan would provide coverage to 95% of Americans at a cost of an additional $50 billion a year. Levy advised that the focus of health policies should be on improving quality, simplifying the administrative process, investing in wellness and rethinking public health.

Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, discussed the great opportunity to fix both the lack of coverage and the high cost of care. Rivlin explained the need to reimburse providers differently to award effective care and discourage waste.

Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, praised the Obama team’s extraordinary commitment to health care reform and bipartisan coalition building. Senator Wyden applauded Obama’s goal of universal coverage, with kids as the priority. Senator Wyden highlighted the importance of focusing on prevention and high-value services, as well as comparative effectiveness research. Senator Wyden also discussed the financial challenges of expanding coverage.

Edwin Zechman, of the Children’s National Medical Center, directed the discussion to the economic recession. Zechman stated that states need additional federal assistance as more kids shift to the Medicaid program and states have decreased budgets.
Boston Conversation Participants:
Amy Rosenthal, Program Director, New England Alliance for Children’s Health, was the first participant on both the National and Boston conversation to mention the consumer voice. She stressed that people need to communicate with policymakers as to what we want to see happen with the country’s healthcare system.

David Chin of PricewaterhouseCoopers stressed that we have fixed the coverage problem in Massachusetts, but we haven’t fixed the quality and cost problem. He also believes that an individual mandate is necessary to build support amongst all stakeholders.

Andrew Dreyfus, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, said that we can and are fixing the healthcare system here in Massachusetts – now we need to find a way to pay for it. He also says that an individual mandate is necessary to get everyone insured.

James Mandell, MD, Children’s Hospital Boston, praised Massachusetts for how amazing it is that we have covered so many folks in so little time. He also said that there is no question that we have to figure out how to finance the system in the long-term. Dr. Mandell listed the way the the system currently deals with chronic disease management and prevention as needing to be looked at as a continuum between all places that patients receive care.
Catherine Hammons and Kate Bicego