Blog Entries: December 2011 and Earlier

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Essential Health Benefits: Balancing State Flexibility with Consumer Protections

December 20, 2011 - In a new blog post on the HHS's proposed approach to minimum coverage standards, Sara Collins says it will be critical that HHS balance the desire of states and health insurers to determine what benefits are included with the law’s intended goal of providing consumers and employers with comprehensive health insurance coverage options.

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Going Mobile: Integrating Texting and Online Tools into Health Care Delivery

December 14, 2011 - Innovative uses of information technology in public health campaigns can expand access to preventive and chronic care for underserved populations and may even improve health outcomes while reducing costs. Programs in New Zealand and the Netherlands may offer lessons for the United States.

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The Aftermath of the Super Committee: What Will It Take to Reduce Federal Health Spending?

December 12, 2011 - At the December 2 Alliance for Health Reform briefing, "Inside Deficit Reduction: What Now?," a panel of experts with diverse perspectives discussed the potential impact on health policy of the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach agreement on a plan to reduce the federal deficit.

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Final Regulation on Medical Loss Ratio Reporting and Rebates: Good for Consumers

December 08, 2011 - Last week HHS issued final regulations governing the Affordable Care Act’s medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements on the percentage of enrollees' premiums that health plans spend on medical care versus administration and profits. This post addreses where the rule came down on the MLR calculation, rebates, exceptions, and more.

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Zooming in on Health System Performance: The Interactive Map

December 07, 2011 - The Commonwealth Fund's benchmarking and quality improvement tool,, has just launched a new version of its interactive map that displays comparative performance information—on health care quality and safety, outcomes, and patient experiences—at the national, state, hospital referral region, and county levels.

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Controlling Costs Across Health Systems: The Commonwealth Fund 2011 International Symposium on Health Care Policy

December 05, 2011 - The Commonwealth Fund's Robin Osborn reports on international symposium, which brought together health ministers and leading policy thinkers from across the industrialized world to explore ways of achieving a sustainable high-performing health care system.

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The Innovation Center at One Year: Much Progress, More to Be Done

November 29, 2011 - The Commonwealth Fund's Mark Zezza, Melinda Abrams, and Stuart Guterman review the Innovation Center's first year and highlight areas for future development and consideration.

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Is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan Working?

November 22, 2011 - A recent government report on the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan program found overall enrollment is lower than projected, and that total enrollment in the 24 federally administered programs is much lower than in the 27 programs administered by states. Jean Hall looks at the true drivers of enrollment.

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Making Sense of Multiple Delivery System Reform Efforts

November 17, 2011 - The list of efforts under way to improve health care delivery way is impressive. The Commonwealth Fund's Anthony Shih says these efforts are synergistic strategies moving us toward a more organized delivery system.

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Better Health, Better Care, and Lower Costs for All Americans: The Affordable Care Act

November 14, 2011 - HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius on some of the ways that Americans are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act and how the law is helping to control health care costs.

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The Once and Future Challenges of Implementing Health Reform

November 14, 2011 - In a new post, John Colmers describes the Affordable Care Act implementation work ahead as both daunting and thrilling.

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New Census Poverty Measure Shows Medical Expenses Push 10 Million More Americans into Poverty

November 10, 2011 - Sara Collins and colleagues on a new U.S. Census Bureau report that finds that the growing burden of health care costs is impoverishing millions of U.S. families.

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A Common Challenge: Seamless and Patient-Centered Care for Adults with Complex Care Needs

November 09, 2011 - The authors of the 2011 Commonwealth Fund International Survey find that the 11 surveyed nations face similar challenges, such as poorly organized care, and that all of these countries have opportunites to learn from each other.

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Medicare Physician Payment: It's Time for Real Reform

November 03, 2011 - Medicare physician fees are scheduled to be reduced by 27.4 percent on January 1, unless Congress acts to override that reduction or eliminate the sustainable growth rate (SGR) mechanism that is used to determine the annual update. In a new post, Stuart Guterman says that Congress repeal and replace the SGR.

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New Hospital Compare Measures Help Fill Out the Performance Picture

October 28, 2011 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has begun publishing data on new measures assessing the quality and safety of hospital care, providing a more complete picture of hospital care. Anne-Marie J. Audet, M.D, and Shreya Patel, say the release of the new measures will lead to a healthy process of public vetting and debate.

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