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Commission Corner

As Congress deliberates the specifics of health reform, The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System continues to provide critical leadership and analysis of key issues.

 In July, with the Alliance for Health Reform, The Commonwealth Fund sponsored a briefing on options for financing health reform and bending the health care cost curve on Capitol Hill for an audience of over 300 stakeholders, including congressional and agency staff and the press. The event featured panelists Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Bill Hoagland, a former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) economist and adviser to Senator Bill Frist, Mark McClellan, the former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Chris Jennings, a senior health care adviser in the Clinton administration. The panel was moderated by Ed Howard of the Alliance for Health Reform and Rachel Nuzum of The Commonwealth Fund. Ms. Nuzum framed the briefing by discussing the current, unsustainable rate of health care cost growth and encouraged policymakers to consider the impact that policy options have on national health expenditures—not only on federal budget costs. Mr. Hoagland discussed how the CBO scoring process works and the impact of the scores on the legislative process. Dr. Reinhardt presented broad options for financing reform, emphasizing the role of new taxes and discussing how the American tax system compares with that in other countries. Dr. McClellan described what he sees as the three most pressing issues in health reform: bending the cost curve, ensuring access without disrupting coverage for those who are happy with the current system, and personal responsibility. Dr. McClellan noted the need for an individual mandate and corresponding subsidies to achieve affordable, accessible, and available health insurance with minimal disruption to the current system. Finally, Mr. Jennings reflected on the politics of health reform, drawing on his experiences both with the Clinton administration and co-directing the Bipartisan Leaders’ Project, a group of former Senate Majority Leaders who have released a set of bipartisan recommendations. For more information on the briefing, you may visit the Commonwealth Fund’s Web site in September for a online e-forum of the event. Additionally, a report comparing various options for financing reform can be found here.

The Commonwealth Fund’s Commission on a High Performance Health System held its summer meeting in Park City, Utah, in July. The group used the opportunity to discuss the status of health reform and develop priorities for future work. As always, the Commission took advantage of its setting to learn from local innovators such as Intermountain Health Care and discussed their approach to achieving high-quality, low-cost care. The Commission was honored to be joined by former Utah governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, for a lively dinner discussion.

In the fall the Commission will release its second State Scorecard on Health System Performance, which will assess state variation across key dimensions of health system performance: access, prevention and treatment, avoidable hospital use and costs, equity, and healthy lives.

For more information, please visit our Web site.

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