Brown presents ‘Governors Perspective on Health Care Reform’ to nation’s most influential health policy leaders
ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 8, 2011) – Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, today, delivered a major address providing a “Governor’s Perspective on Health Care Reform” to a national audience of health policy leaders at the 11th Annual National Health Policy Conference. Over 800 people attended the event in Washington, D.C., which was organized by AcademyHealth.
The National Health Policy Conference (NHPC) provides clarity on the critical health care issues and priorities for the upcoming year. In its eleventh year, the NHPC continues to deliver a program with insider perspectives from health policy leaders to an audience that includes researchers, policy experts, and advocates, who all share your concerns and interests. Past keynote speakers include U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and – during the 2008 presidential campaign – policy advisors from the Obama, Clinton and McCain campaigns.
Brown’s remarks touched on five general areas: A contextual overview of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its impact on Maryland, the opportunities afforded to states that choose to embrace reform and the specific challenges states face to implement the measure, the need for states to focus on efforts that will bend the health care cost curve, and a call to address the nation’s health disparities. Like many other states, Maryland has existing health reforms that were in place prior to the enactment of the ACA, including the creation of the Maryland Health Insurance Plan, tax incentives to help small businesses offer employees health coverage, an expansion of Medicaid and changes that allowed young adults to stay on their parents coverage through age 25. In part because of these reforms, the Governor’s Health Care Reform Coordinating Council, Co-Chaired by Lt. Governor Brown, estimated that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will save Maryland $850 million and cut the number of uninsured in half by 2020.
“The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to save states money and cut the number of Americans who do not have health insurance. Still, there are challenges that indicate if we do nothing, we do so at our own peril,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Success will require sustained and collaborative efforts on the part of all public and private stakeholders to bend the cost curve, and if we can rise to this challenge, we can change the face of health care in America.”
Brown identified several challenges states face in implementing federal reform, most notably how to set up the health benefit exchanges required by federal law and make them self-sustaining by 2016, how to address entry into coverage, and how to build the health care workforce to meet the needs of a larger insured population.
“While more individuals will have health insurance when federal reform is fully implemented, their coverage will be meaningful only if they have access to health care providers who are able to meet their needs,” Brown said. “We could simply let the law take effect and watch the health care system adapt. Some states may choose this approach. But Maryland is going to be proactive.”
The O’Malley-Brown Administration introduced legislation last week that would establish the framework for the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange. Through partnerships and under the direction of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Governor’s Grants Office, Maryland has secured several federal grants to support the expansion of health care information technology. To address health care workforce shortages, Maryland is investing in higher education – including programs at the state’s 16 community colleges – and is looking into changing and streamlining credentialing and licensing policies without jeopardizing quality of care.
For reform to be successful, Brown explained, states must work tirelessly to bend the cost curve of health insurance. The analysis of Maryland’s savings, $850 million over the next 10 years, was conducted by the Hilltop Institute a non-partisan research organization at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A significant portion of cost savings come from the federal government taking on the financial burden of many of the reforms implemented at the state level in recent years. In 2020, the enhanced federal match will decrease and states must be prepared to take on a larger portion of the costs. Brown said states “must reaffirm and strengthen the commitment to begin serious and sustained efforts to bend the cost curve and align incentives toward quality, safety and efficiency.”
He touted Maryland’s efforts to increase access to primary care and improve chronic disease management through patient centered medical home models, a more robust health information technology infrastructure, and initiatives that reduce preventable complications and readmissions. In Fiscal Year 2010, Brown said, nearly 50,000 potentially preventable complications cost Maryland’s health care system more than $520 million. To address these complications, Maryland’s all-payer hospital rate-setting system, the only one in the country, redistributed $4 million from the hospitals with more preventable complications to those that had fewer. Since launching this incentive process, rates of preventable complications have declined 12 percent – saving the state $62.5 million.
Lt. Governor Brown heads the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s health care portfolio. He chairs the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council and the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council. This year, he is leading the Administration’s legislative efforts to pass a package of bills necessary establish the framework for the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange, among other health care bills. Last year, Brown led the administration’s efforts to pass the False Health Claims Act, which helped recover more than $45 million in stolen Medicaid funds, and a bill establishing the Patient Centered Medical Home program that promotes coordinated, preventive care and supports primary care physicians.
Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown administration’s economic development, health care, higher education, BRAC, and veterans efforts. In past years, Brown has worked with the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation creating BRAC Zones and the BRAC Higher Education Fund, as well as public safety legislation that took guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.