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Health Cost Containment Commission Promises Report in the Fall

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

January 4, 2013 -- A high-powered panel of a dozen former policymakers and health care experts plan to produce a report by October detailing how states can cut the increase in health care spending so that it mirrors overall economic growth.

The commission will be headed by University of Virginia professor Ray Scheppach, the former long-serving executive director of the National Governors Association. Its co-chairmen are former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and former Colorado Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. The commission includes health industry executives, including Geisinger Health System President and CEO Glenn Steele, Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts President and CEO Andrew Dreyfus and UnitedHealth Group Executive Vice President Simon Stevens. Also on the panel are former policymakers and policy experts, such as Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance former executive director Joan Henneberry and Medicare trustee Robert D. Reischauer.

"We are going to look comprehensively for practical cost control strategies that states could utilize," said Halvorson in a statement. "It will be important to have a continuum of options that have appeal across the political spectrum."

The group plans to hold a conference call on Jan. 8 and its first full-day meeting on Feb. 13 in Washington, D.C. Kaiser Permanente, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are funding the project.

"We have learned in Massachusetts that expanding coverage is not enough," Dreyfus said in a statement. "You also need disciplined, statewide efforts to control costs and promote affordability in order to sustain the gains in coverage."

The group noted that many national policies have arisen from state efforts and that after the implementation of the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), state officials will participate in covering about one out of every three Americans through Medicaid or state insurance exchanges.

On its website, the group said it plans to tackle questions including:

    • How does a state create transparency on health care prices and quality to allow consumers to make more cost effective decisions?
    • What incentives can be built into the state insurance exchanges that will encourage consumers to choose the most cost-effective care?
    • How does a state expand the scope of practice for physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and other nonphysician providers?
    • What health care data needs to be collected to monitor progress toward the goal of making health care spending sustainable over time?
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