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Commonwealth Fund Recommends National Strategy to Help Chronically Ill

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

April 26, 2012 -- An aggressive new government effort to improve the quality of care for chronically sick Americans is a chief recommendation of a blue-ribbon panel of health care experts brought together by The Commonwealth Fund.

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine published last week, The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High-Performance Health System said that the nation also should aim to save $184 billion in health care costs over the next decade by setting a defined target. Per-capita health care spending should be reduced to the annual projected growth of the gross domestic product, plus half of a percentage point, by 2016, the commission said.

One way to improve health and cut spending would be for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to team up and launch an effort in 50 to 100 communities aimed at improving the care for people with chronic conditions, said the 17-member commission. The towns, counties, states or regions would take part voluntarily. Chronic illnesses would include coronary artery disease, diabetes and asthma.

Government officials could promote better primary care to those patients, give payment incentives for providers and make better use of health information technology in the targeted communities, the commission said.

The report is called: "The Performance Improvement Imperative: Utilizing a Coordinated, Community-Based Approach to Lower Costs and Enhance Care for Chronically Ill Patients." The chairman of the commission, David Blumenthal, a Harvard medical professor, says in the article that "for decades the United States has seemed powerless to curb excessive health care spending and improve quality of care. It is powerless no longer."

However, the federal government needs a comprehensive and disciplined plan to move forward, he writes.

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