Integrated Set of Policies Could Insure Everyone, Improve Health, and Slow Spending Growth, Commission Finds

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A comprehensive set of insurance, payment, and system reforms could guarantee affordable health insurance coverage, improve health outcomes, and slow the growth of health spending by $3 trillion by the end of the next decade, according to a new report released today by The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System. <br /><br />In <a href="/Content/Publications/Fund-Reports/2009/Feb/The-Path-to-a-High-Performance-U-S--Health-System.aspx">The Path to a High Performance U.S. Health System: A 2020 Vision and the Policies to Pave the Way,</a> the Commission's experts lay out strategic reforms that would simultaneously improve health care access and quality and control costs. Although many of the reforms are likely to be politically difficult, the Commission finds they are necessary to put the U.S. health system on a different path. The report also assesses the impacts of specific policy actions from the years 2010 to 2020, compared with the status quo. <br /><br />A central recommendation is to create a national insurance exchange that would offer a choice of private health plans and a new public plan, coupled with insurance reforms that would make coverage affordable, ensure access, and lower administrative costs. Building on this foundation, the Commission recommends policies that would change the way the nation pays for care, invest in information systems to improve quality and safety, and promote health. <br /><br />According to the report, insurance reforms would extend coverage to everyone within two years, with only 1 percent uninsured throughout the next decade. If combined with payment and system reforms initiated in 2010, the integrated approach to reform could slow the growth of national health spending by a cumulative $3 trillion by 2020. <br /><br />"The Commission recognizes that reforms won’t be easy," says James J. Mongan, M.D., the Commission’s chairman and the president and CEO of Partners HealthCare. "Yet, if we fail to act, the situation we face in the future will be much worse." <br /><br />In a <a href="/Content/Publications/Literature-Abstracts/2009/Feb/Investing-in-Health-Care-Reform.aspx">"Perspectives" piece</a> published in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine</em>, Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis discusses the report’s recommendations and their implications. Davis notes that the new public plan option proposed would encourage more competition in the insurance market--leading private plans to add value in health care delivery and become more administratively efficient. "It is time to change business as usual," Davis writes, "and to invest in the health care reforms that will benefit the public and patients and put our nation on a sounder economic footing."<br />