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By Harold Ambler
By Harold Ambler
WARWICK – The ongoing need to contain costs amid the upheaval of a changing health care landscape will be a central theme of the Feb. 27 Providence Business News summit on health care reform and the insurance exchange.
Al Charbonneau, a relative newcomer to the Rhode Island health care scene who recently became executive director at the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, will participate in the second of two panel discussions at the event, entitled the “Health Benefits Exchange Summit.” It will be held at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Rhode Island, Charbonneau observed in a recent email, is already doing a lot of things right in health care.
“My impression … is that [Rhode Island has] a high-quality ‘system’ that has an opportunity to improve its cost performance,” Charbonneau said. “There are many working very hard to improve the affordability of health care in the state.”
Part of the responsibility for managing costs, Charbonneau said, falls to HealthSource RI, the state’s health insurance exchange.
“The exchange has an opportunity to enable tax benefits and subsidies which will help make insurance more affordable,” he said. “This mission argues for a focused staff whose costs do not substantially increase premiums.”
He said that so far, in his first weeks on the job, it appears that people in the Ocean State are open to what worked well in Rochester.
“Over the last few years, I have analyzed the cost-containment experiences in the Rochester, N.Y., region,” said Charbonneau, who will participate in a panel discussion focused generally on health care reform and the exchange. “I have identified the major factors such as global budgeting, substantial incentives like predictable hospital revenue, transparency and collaboration that led to the savings gained over the life of the experiment. I have begun to share these thoughts with business, community, and health care leaders here because the Rhode Island health system is amenable to these kinds of initiatives.”
A form of collaboration in Rhode Island’s health care industry, as elsewhere around the nation, is payment bundling, which incents providers to follow patients’ progress throughout their treatment, keep outcomes at their absolute optimum, and contain costs.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been an innovator in the area of bundling, and area hospitals increasingly tailor their services to fall within CMS’ standards. But bundling innovation hardly ends there.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island recently announced a bundling agreement with South County Orthopedics and South County Hospital. According to Blue Cross President and CEO Peter Andruszkiewicz, who will join Charbonneau on the panel, more such arrangements are in the works.
“We’re really proud of the bundled payment agreement with South County Hospital and South County Orthopedics,” Andruszkiewicz said in an email. “It’s a thoughtful way of improving quality outcomes and the patient experience, while also managing costs. The response thus far has really been positive and we’re looking forward to seeing the impact once meaningful data becomes available. “We are in discussions with other provider groups about similar bundled arrangements and hope they will start to move forward in the near term,” he said.