The Commonwealth Fund Connection

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

Workers' Share of Health Insurance Premiums Up 63% from 2003 to 2010

Premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance policies increased by 50 percent from 2003 to 2010, and the annual amount that employees pay toward their insurance increased by 63 percent, as businesses required employees to contribute a greater share, a new Commonwealth Fund analysis finds.

The report, which examines trends in health insurance costs state-by-state, finds that coverage costs in each state are outpacing income growth. At the same time, premiums are buying less protective coverage: per-person deductibles doubled for employees working for large and small firms over the same period. The analysis was prepared by Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen and colleagues at The Commonwealth Fund.

Visit commonwealthfund.org to view an interactive map and infographic and download the complete report. You can also listen to a podcast on Affordable Care Act provisions that should help reverse the trends.

Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis to Step Down at the End of 2012

Karen Davis, who since 1995 has led The Commonwealth Fund in its drive to improve the performance of the nation’s health care system, plans to step down as the Fund's president on December 31, 2012.

"Karen Davis is one of the outstanding thinkers and leaders on health care reform," said James R. Tallon, Jr., chair of the Commonwealth Fund Board of Directors. "A distinguished health policy researcher, university department chair, and federal health agency executive, she positioned The Commonwealth Fund to make a major contribution to the recent health care reform debate and to the implementation of those reforms. The foundation is extremely fortunate to have had Karen at its helm at a time of great opportunity for improving the performance of our health system."

Health Care Experts: Continue Implementing the Health Reform Law
Nearly nine of 10 leaders in health and health care policy say it is important for federal and state policymakers to continue efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act, according to the latest and final Commonwealth Fund/Modern Healthcare Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey. Survey respondents strongly support bringing annual increases in health care spending more in line with economic growth—a central goal of the Affordable Care Act and the president's recent deficit-reduction framework. For complete survey findings, read the new Commonwealth Fund data brief. And for commentary, read blog posts by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and by John Colmers, former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and vice president for health care transformation and strategic planning at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
New International Health Survey: Sicker Adults with Medical Home Do Better
Adults with complex medical conditions, including those with serious or chronic illness, injury, or disability, benefit from receiving their care from a medical home, The Commonwealth Fund's latest international health policy survey finds. According to the 2011 survey, which focused on the health care experiences of "sicker" adults in the United States and 10 other high-income countries, patients connected with primary care practices that have medical home characteristics were less likely to report medical errors, test duplication, and other care coordination failures. Moreover, they reported better relationships with their doctors and rated their care more highly. Read a blog post on the countries' shared challenges and compare performance by country and download custom charts in our International Health Policy Center.
An International Perspective on "Meaningful Use"
The U.S. has embarked on a major effort to achieve "meaningful use" of health information technology (HIT), including electronic health records, by clinicians and hospitals. A new issue brief describes the extent of meaningful use in three countries with very high levels of HIT adoption—Denmark, New Zealand, and Sweden. While all three countries have achieved high levels of meaningful use, in none of them have physicians reached 100 percent in all categories of e-health functionality.
Developing Care Coordination Measures for EHRs
With Commonwealth Fund support, a team of researchers developed and validated a set of care coordination measures focused on the primary care physician-to-specialist referral process—one of the most common transitions across health care providers. Preliminary evaluation determined that two of the five measures, which are designed for use in electronic health record (EHR) systems, are ready for implementation. A new issue brief describes the measure development process and the prospects for the measures’ broad use.
International Profiles of Health Care Systems
A new Commonwealth Fund report presents overviews of the health care systems of Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. The overviews, prepared by leading experts in each country, cover health insurance, public and private financing, health system organization, quality of care, health disparities, efficiency and integration, use of health information technology, use of evidence-based practice, cost containment, and recent reforms and innovations.
Strengthening Primary Care in Australia, England, and the Netherlands
Recent reforms in Australia, England, and the Netherlands aim to enhance the quality and accessibility of primary care. A new Commonwealth Fund brief evaluates the performance of primary care systems in the three nations and examines their major strategies for enhancing primary care access, strengthening coordination of patient services, and reforming provider payment.
Communicating the Value of Integrated Care to Stakeholders
In a Commonwealth Fund–supported policy brief, researchers at the Center for Health Care Strategies discuss strategies for states to engage stakeholder groups—including patients, providers, and advocacy organizations—in their efforts to integrate care for "dual eligibles,"or beneficiaries of both Medicare and Medicaid.
WhyNotTheBest.org Continues to Improve: New Performance Data, Benchmarks, and Social Media Tools and a New Look

We invite you to visit a redesigned WhyNotTheBest.org to access new types of hospital performance data, including:

  • a new measure assessing the extent to which hospitals have adopted electronic medical records;
  • new composite readmission and mortality rates; and
  • median Medicare reimbursement payments for six conditions, including joint replacement and treatment for complications of diabetes.

In addition, there are two new benchmarks: the average performance of U.S. hospitals that are part of health systems, and the average performance of all non–health system hospitals.

You will also notice several improvements that make it easier than ever to create custom reports comparing and benchmarking hospitals on more than 100 measures of health care quality and safety, patient experiences, and outcomes. New tools let registered users share their saved reports via e-mail, Twitter, or a direct link.

Coming soon: enhancements to the WhyNotTheBest.org interactive map will enable explorations of health system performance at the national, state, county, and regional levels. Using new map overlays, users will be able to zoom in on communities involved in key delivery system reform efforts, such as Beacon Communities, as well as flag providers who have been recognized for delivering high-quality care.

Blog: Making Sense of Delivery System Reform Efforts
The list of efforts under way to improve health care delivery is both long and wide-ranging, including patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, health homes, and health information exchanges. In a new blog post, Anthony Shih, M.D, M.P.H., The Commonwealth Fund's executive vice president for programs, says the success of these initiatives should be determined by how each effort fits with the others and contributes to the organization of the health care system.
Blog: New Census Poverty Measure
Using an experimental "supplemental poverty measure," the Census Bureau finds that when health care costs are subtracted from family incomes, 10 million more people in the United States become officially poor. In a blog post, The Commonwealth Fund's Sara Collins, Ph.D., and colleagues says that of all the new dimensions in the supplemental poverty measure—which also takes into account in-kind income transfers like food stamps as well as significant costs like payroll taxes—out-of-pocket health care spending has the greatest overall effect on poverty.
Fellowship in Minority Health Policy Open to Applicants
The Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy is designed to prepare physicians for leadership roles in promoting health policies and practices that improve access to high-quality care for minority, disadvantaged, and vulnerable populations. The application deadline for the 2012–13 fellowship is January 3, 2012. For more information, please visit: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Fellowships/Minority-Health-Policy-Fellowship.aspx.
2012–13 Harkness Fellowships Open to Applicants

Applications for the 2012–13 Harkness Fellowships remain open to individuals from Germany, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Canada. The Commonwealth Fund's Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice provide a unique opportunity for mid-career professionals—academic researchers, government policymakers, clinicians, managers, and journalists—to spend up to 12 months in the United States conducting a policy-oriented research study.

Deadlines for receipt of applications are as follows:

  • Germany, Norway, and Sweden: December 2, 2011.
  • The Netherlands: January 4, 2012.
  • Canada: February 14, 2012.

Note that the application process for Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom is now closed.