The Commonwealth Fund Connection

The Commonwealth Fund Connection is as a roundup of recent Fund publications, charts, multimedia, and other timely content. 

Karen Davis: The Health Care Budget Proposals Present Stark Choices

In their proposals to address the federal budget deficit, the President and the House of Representatives have advanced fundamentally different paths for the nation. Rising health care costs are at the heart of this debate.

In a new blog post, Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis analyzes the proposals, showing that while both approaches constrain federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid, they differ sharply in how steep the cuts would be, how they would be achieved, and what effect they would have. Davis outlines the health care provisions in each proposal and considers their impact on the availability of affordable, comprehensive coverage and the drivers of health care costs.

Health Reform Will Make Insurance Affordable for Nearly All Families
Ninety percent of American families living above the federal poverty level will be able to afford health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to MIT health care economist Jonathan Gruber, lead author of a new Commonwealth Fund report.
Low-Cost Program Helps Keep Nursing Home Residents Out of Hospital
A program designed to help nursing homes identify and manage acute conditions and status changes among residents achieved a 17 percent reduction in hospital admissions when tested among 25 facilities over a recent six-month period, according to a Commonwealth Fund–supported evaluation published in the new issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Recent Commonwealth Fund–Supported Articles

In recent studies, Commonwealth Fund–supported researchers explored:

Lessons from Abroad for U.S. Health Care

A series of studies led by former Harkness Fellows in Health Care Policy and Practice focus on international health system issues and offers lessons for the U.S. The articles address:

Quality Matters: Strengthening the Primary Care Workforce
The latest issue of this newsletter explores strategies to strengthen the primary care workforce to prepare to care for millions of Americans who will gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Plus, a case study of one safety-net clinic's use of team care to expand access, increase productivity, and improve quality.
Join a Webinar on the Community-Based Approach to Reducing Hospital Readmissions

Many national initiatives—including Medicare's Community-Based Care Transition Program, part of the Affordable Care Act—encourage providers to work beyond their walls to coordinate patient care and avoid complications that can lead to hospitalizations or readmissions. Join a Commonwealth Fund webinar on May 6, 1 p.m.–2 p.m., EDT, featuring:

  • Eric Coleman, M.D., M.P.H., director, Care Transitions Program, and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
    Dr. Coleman will discuss how hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, community providers, and others can provide continuous, coordinated care.
  • Garry MacKenzie, M.D., medical director of cardiology services at McKay-Dee Hospital Center in Ogden, Utah
    McKay-Dee is among the nation's top performers in holding down readmission rates for heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia patients. Dr. MacKenzie will provide real-world examples of how the hospital has partnered with community providers to keep tabs on patients after discharge and keep them from being readmitted.
  • Janice Fitzgerald, R.N., director of quality and medical management at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.
    Baystate Medical Center is one of the hospitals participating in State Action on Avoidable Rehospitalizations (STAAR), an initiative supported by The Commonwealth Fund and led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to help hospitals improve their processes for transitioning patients to other care settings and thereby reduce readmissions. Ms. Fitzgerald will discuss Baystate's creation of care teams to oversee smooth and safe care transitions.

The webinar will be moderated by Commonwealth Fund vice president Anne-Marie J. Audet, M.D., M.Sc., director of the Program on Quality Improvement and Efficiency.

To register for this free event, go to https://cc.readytalk.com/r/7e6jn35x8ua.

Alliance Briefing: The Path Forward for Public Reporting
An April 27 Alliance for Health Reform briefing, cosponsored by The Commonwealth Fund, looked at the state-of-the-art of public reporting on performance in health care and its future under the Affordable Care Act. The speakers were Tom Scully, Alston & Bird; Gerry Shea, AFL-CIO; Nancy Foster, American Hospital Association; and David Share, Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan. A webcast, podcast, videos, and related resources are available here.
Impact of Medicaid Assisted-Living Policies: New Issue Brief Series
Many frail elders with Medicaid coverage choose to live in an assisted-living facility as an alternative to a nursing home. Yet, low-income older adults who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid face many challenges in obtaining Medicaid coverage for high-quality assisted-living services. With support from The Commonwealth Fund, the National Senior Citizens Law Center undertook a study of federal and state Medicaid policies for assisted-living coverage. Policy briefs and white papers from this study are published as a resource for advocates, policymakers, state Medicaid officials, assisted-living facility operators, and others on http://medicaidalseries.org/.
Australian–American Health Policy Fellowship
The Australian–American Health Policy Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for outstanding, mid-career U.S. professionals—academics, government officials, clinical leaders, decision-makers in managed care and other private health care organizations, and journalists—to spend up to 10 months in Australia conducting research and working with leading Australian health policy experts on issues relevant to both countries. The deadline for receipt of applications for the 2012–13 fellowship is August 15, 2011. For further information on the Australian–American Health Policy Fellowship and to obtain an application, please see http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Fellowships.aspx
AHCJ Fellows Examine North Carolina's Mental Health System, Las Vegas Hospitals
Rose Hoban, a reporter for WUNC, North Carolina's public radio station, and a former nurse, used her Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) Media Fellowship on Health Performance, supported by the Commonwealth Fund, to create a five-part radio series on what state and local governments are doing to accommodate and treat residents with mental health disorders. Another AHCJ Fellow, Marshall Allen, a reporter for ProPublica, won the Harvard Kennedy School's 2011 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting for his series "Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas". The series was co-written with Alex Richards and published in the Las Vegas Sun.
2012–13 Harkness Fellowships Open to Applicants

The Australian–American Health Policy Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for outstanding, mid-career U.S. professionals—academics, government officials, clinical leaders, decision-makers in managed care and other private health care organizations, and journalists—to spend up to 10 months in Australia conducting research and working with leading Australian health policy experts on issues relevant to both countries. The deadline for receipt of applications for the 2012–13 fellowship is August 15, 2011.

For further information on the Australian–American Health Policy Fellowship and to obtain an application, please see http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Fellowships.aspx

Karen Davis Named One of Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare
Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis was once again included in Modern Healthcare's list of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare. The magazine described The Commonwealth Fund as "a powerful force in healthcare policy circles" and Davis as "a strong proponent for change."