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The California Business Community Must Engage with Healthcare Reform

[The following blog post was written by Micah Weinberg, Senior Policy Advisor at the Bay Area Council]

The Affordable Care Act took some important first steps toward getting rising healthcare costs under control, but it’s time  to get down to brass tacks.  The Bay Area Council, a business-backed public policy organization devoted to advancing the common good, is stepping up to start actively participating in making federal healthcare reform work.  Our primarily focus is on improving the value that Californian businesses and individuals receive for their healthcare spending.

Here is what we have identified as the most important priorities:

1.      Preserve and Fully Fund Cost-Controlling Elements of Reform:  There are many provisions of the law that aim to bring down costs while improving the quality of care. Cost control is an essential component of healthcare reform, and Congress must fully fund these programs.  California also must continue to innovate in areas such as care coordination and value-enhancing medical technology.

2.      Create an Economic Environment that Rewards High-Value Care: We will continue to take steps to assure that our payments to providers reward quality and affordability and to create appropriate incentives that encourage value-conscious decisions by consumers.  It is important that these incentives be aligned across private and public payers so that the market consistently rewards actions that maximize the health of all Californians.

3.      Build a Successful California Health Benefit Exchange: We look forward to working in close coordination with the Exchange to drive higher quality and cost containment through value-based purchasing and rewarding efficient and coordinated care.

4.      Focus on Initiatives that Promote Patient Safety and Health Outcomes: As healthcare providers and purchasers, we are committed to working across sectors and with policymakers to promote prevention, patient safety and reduce the cost associated with preventable complications and infections, such as sepsis.

5.      Maintain Commitment to Public Health Goals:  The ACA encourages improved health through community-based prevention and public health strategies.  It also envisions an important role for employers through workplace wellness programs.  These initiatives – particularly those focused on addressing obesity and encouraging physical activity – should be supported and scaled up as quickly as feasible building on best practices and proven models.

6.      Provide Greater Transparency and Better Information for All Consumers: Both within and outside of the Exchange, employers and consumers must be able to compare much more easily health plans and products on the basis of quality and price.  Consumers and purchasers should also be able to easily access quality and outcomes data on treatments, providers, and technologies.

7.      Be Good Stewards of Resources by Making Government More Efficient: Reform implementation should make the system simpler and more effective for Californians by determining when programs can be combined and regulatory duplication eliminated.  This is essential within an environment of constrained public resources.  Government also has an important role in supporting the development and dissemination of state-of-the-art information technology and setting common standards that will improve the efficiency of healthcare transactions.

Bay Area businesses have a unique stake in this process.  At the Bay Area Council, our mission is to work with public and civic leaders to make the Bay Area the most innovative, globally competitive and sustainable region in the world.  Rapidly rising healthcare costs are unsustainable and they are compromising our global competitiveness but they can be solved by our innovation.

We must get dramatically more efficient at producing health.  The innovation that will power this change has been pioneered in our region.  Bay Area business models, purchasing strategies, and medical and technological innovation is a critical component of the transformation of our system.

But the Bay Area cannot go it alone.  Leadership is needed from the business community throughout the state to make health reform a priority and reality. We will engage in communication and outreach with corporations, the public, and other stakeholders on the potential of health reform; on how to best maximize its positive attributes; and on state and federal opportunities connected with health reform implementation.

The critical voice of business must support reforms that will enable needed change in today’s healthcare system.