In reducing costs – success, challenge and uncertainty

By Harold Ambler
PBN Staff Writer

Cost and access dominated the discussion in the second of two panels at the Feb. 27 Providence Business News Summit on Health Care Reform and the Insurance Exchange. More

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HEALTH CARE

In reducing costs – success, challenge and uncertainty

PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SKORSKI
UNITED TOGETHER: UnitedHealthcare of New England President and CEO Stephen J. Farrell, center, says that his organization plans on adopting its own private exchange. Page 16. Story 1 Photo Credit 1 = PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SKORSKI

By Harold Ambler
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 3/10/14

Cost and access dominated the discussion in the second of two panels at the Feb. 27 Providence Business News Summit on Health Care Reform and the Insurance Exchange.

Populated by health insurance executives, health care providers and the executive director of the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, the panel examined how difficult it has been to tame the continuing rise in the cost of health care services, with much of the time in the 90-minute session spent discussing which levers were showing signs of slowing that growth.

One point of agreement among the panelists was that the reconfigured health insurance marketplace on its own was not going to exert strong downward pressure on costs. Tufts Health Plan’s President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Croswell leaned on his experience in Massachusetts, which undertook health care reform under then-Gov. Mitt Romney starting in 2006.

“Collectively, through all the changes that were put into place, the access problem was solved, but the cost problem was not,” Croswell said.

Care New England President and CEO Dennis D. Keefe underscored that perspective by saying that access by itself is not enough to overcome decades of perverse payment incentives, ones that rewarded what should have been punished and punished what should have been rewarded.

“I did spend six years in Massachusetts under RomneyCare,” he said. “The more we did as a hospital, the more surgeries we did, the more patients showed up at the emergency room. The American system created this situation that incented the wrong things. We have to change this fundamentally.”

Albert Charbonneau, the executive director of the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, pointed to accountable care organizations as a key to containing costs. His background includes more than 20 years as a CEO and chief operating officer of hospitals as well as another eight years as CEO of a community organization dedicated to reducing health care costs in the Rochester, N.Y., region.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we see ourselves going from health system to ACOs,” he said. “We really need to concentrate at the institutional level to use data to collaborate to change the course of health care.”

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