New Health Care Commission Focuses on Developing State Policies to Contain Costs

    • January 8, 2013

Washington, D.C.—A new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported commission is now working to develop practical state policies to contain health care costs.

The State Health Care Cost Containment Commission includes representatives of all the key sectors of the health care industry, including insurance plans, hospitals and physician provider groups. It also has representatives from all the key groups that purchase health care, including Medicaid, Medicare and the private sector, as well as a consumer advocate.

Several of its members recently jointly announced the commission, including Mike Leavitt, former HHS secretary and governor of Utah; George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente; and Andrew Dreyfus, president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

The commission, which is being organized by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, will focus on developing state policies for several reasons:

  • Most public policy transformations in the United States have grown from state initiatives, e.g., the Clean Air Act, welfare reform, and health care for the uninsured.
  • State experimentation can be critical to testing policies prior to enactment at the national level.
  • Individual states differ substantially with regard to their health care markets and cultures, and thus cost control strategies must take these differences into account.
  • As the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) proceeds, governors and states will become more accountable for the cost of care as one out of every three Americans will receive coverage through Medicaid or state insurance exchanges.

“Not only is health care the major contributor to our federal deficit and outstanding debt problem, but it is also a major contributor to the ongoing difficult fiscal position in many states. While there are provisions in the ACA that will encourage integration and help reduce costs, it seems that states have a clear advantage in providing leadership in this area,” Leavitt said.

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

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

The commission is being co-chaired by Leavitt and Bill Ritter, former governor of Colorado. In addition to Halvorson and Dreyfus, other members of the commission include:

  • Jay Cohen, executive chairman, Monarch HealthCare
  • Michael L. Davis, senior vice president, global human resources, General Mills
    • Lloyd Dean, CEO, Dignity Health
  • Joan Henneberry, former executive director, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
  • Robert Reischauer, Medicare trustee and former director, Congressional Budget Office
  • Rob Restuccia, consumer advocate and executive director, Community Catalyst
  • Glenn Steele, president and CEO, Geisinger Health System
  • Simon Stevens, executive vice president, UnitedHealth Group.

Raymond Scheppach, former executive director of the National Governors Association, will direct the project. He is an economic fellow at the Miller Center and a professor of practice at U.Va.’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

The commission held its first conference call last October and is scheduled to have its first meeting in February.

The initiative is being funded by Kaiser Permanente and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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