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HOW TO BALANCE REDUCING HEALTH CARE COSTS AND IMPROVING QUALITY? by Andrew Dreyfus

Regular readers of this blog are quite familiar with the emerging discussion about health care costs in Massachusetts, a discussion which has focused mostly on the sustainability of health care reform in the face of rising premiums and higher than expected CommonwealthCare enrollment. Rick Lord, CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), yesterday captured the growing consensus in the Commonwealth: “We’ve made great progress in Massachusetts expanding access to coverage, but we have to tackle the second phase of health care reform – we have to control cost increases or our reform is not sustainable.”

At the same time, a parallel national debate is intensifying over similar pressures facing the federal Medicare program. A recent Congressional Budget Office report suggested that answers must be found that improve the value of health care: “Substantial evidence exists that more expensive care does not always mean higher quality care. Consequently, embedded in the country’s fiscal challenge is the opportunity to reduce costs without impairing health outcomes overall.”

As we attempt to sustain health care reform, we must seek similar solutions: reducing costs while continuing to improve health outcomes.

One organization that is trying to understand how to capitalize on that opportunity is the Health Care Quality and Cost Council, which has set ambitious goals to contain costs and improve quality.

The hard part, of course, is developing a plan to achieve those goals, and the QCC is being remarkably collaborative in going about the task. Last month, the QCC issued a wide-open invitation for comments, creating a timely opportunity for a much-needed community conversation on this topic.

Now is the time for all stakeholders to take advantage of this invitation to share their experience and perspective. The more input the Council gets, the better informed and creative their solutions can be. Comments can be submitted to the QCC at hcqcc@massmail.state.ma.us.

Andrew Dreyfus is Executive Vice President for Health Care Services at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and former President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

This program aired on November 21, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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