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"The Connector Wrestles with Health Care Costs" by Leslie Kirwan

Last Saturday, the Board of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority held its annual retreat. The retreat was a great success, giving the Board the opportunity to review data and potential policy options concerning health care costs and their impact on the sustainability on health reform.

I want to thank the Connector staff for their efforts to foster a dialogue about some of the most challenging issues facing health reform. It’s clear that the Connector is often at the center of the health reform storm, confronting difficult policy decisions that don’t easily lend themselves to consensus – and all in the public eye. Given this fact, there are enormous demands on Connector staff for information and innovative policy ideas. They do a great job of meeting these demands, and we all appreciate their hard work and commitment to the success of health reform.

John McDonough, Executive Director of Health Care for All, observed the retreat and live blogged (is that a verb?) the discussion on the Healthy Blog website. Kudos to John for keeping pace with the discussion and making it accessible to those who couldn’t attend. Here is an “extreme cliff notes” version of some key issues highlighted at the retreat:

1. Health care cost containment is essential to the success and sustainability of health reform – and also critical to ensuring that state government has the capacity to invest in all of our state’s public priorities (please remember that investing in education, job creation and environmental protection, among other priorities, is critical to promoting good health).

2. Health care cost trends threaten the viability of the individual mandate. If increases in health care costs outstrip increases in income, more people will fall outside the mandate.

3. Enrollment in Commonwealth Care has been very strong – and that is a sign of success for health reform. Further enrollment trends will be closely monitored to understand the full scope of the challenge and inform policy decisions.

4. The Connector has a number of policy levers within its jurisdiction that can influence health care costs and cost trends for government, individuals and businesses – in particular, centered on the design of Commonwealth Care and Commonwealth Choice and minimum creditable coverage requirements. Commonwealth Care and Commonwealth Choice plan design will be a focus of the Connector’s attention over the coming weeks and months.

5. The Connector is not an island. There was broad interest expressed at the meeting in coordination between the Connector’s health programs (Commonwealth Care and Commonwealth Choice) and other state health programs to leverage positive change in our health care system (i.e., that could improve quality of care and restrain costs).

Leslie Kirwan
Chairwoman, Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority
Administration and Finance Secretary for Governor Deval Patrick

This program aired on November 2, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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