In order for our state to be healthy and strong every Rhode Islander needs health insurance. The first meeting of the Lt. Governor's advisory work group emphasized the benefits of covering every Rhode Islander including more positive health outcomes and economic rewards. Anyone that pays health care premiums also pays the hidden costs of the uninsured. John McDonough, executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts, explained the window of opportunity for change that his state saw. Dr. McDonough also described some early lessons Massachusetts has learned during the process of implementing comprehensive health care reform in the Bay State.
Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner Chris Koller discussed new data that puts a face on the uninsured in Rhode Island and some creative ways to make changes to the health insurance system that could help move us toward covering more Rhode Islanders.
Christine Ferguson, an expert in the state’s use of federal funds, including RiteCare, lead a discussion on the current state of government funding, the future of federal funding, and steps the state can take to maximize federal funds as we move forward toward covering all Rhode Islanders.
Comprehensive reform of our health care system will mean reorienting the delivery and utilization of medical care. Increasing the value of health care and examining cost drivers is fundamental if Rhode Island wants to take the necessary steps toward ensuring that we all have health care we can afford. Dr. James Hester, Director of the Health Care Reform Commission for the Vermont State Legislature, presented some of the steps that his state has taken in this direction, and discussed with the group their potential for application in Rhode Island.
The way the system is currently oriented, financial incentives are not always where they should be for achieving the best care. It is also very difficult for patients to make informed choices that factor in cost and quality. This system is failing both doctors and patients. Dr. David Cutler, Dean of Social Sciences at Harvard University and author of Your Money Or Your Life: Strong Medicine for America's Health Care System, will explore with the group the overall health care system, including potential changes to promote quality and efficiency. He will also discuss ways to increase transparency in health care treatment choices and costs, as well as in health insurance choices and costs.
Small business owners and individuals who are purchasing health insurance directly need a simple way to compare and sign up for insurance plans. Dr. Nancy Turnbull, a senior lecturer in health policy in Harvard University’s Department of Health Policy and Management, will examine and discuss alternate purchasing arrangements that could make selecting health care plans less complex and less expensive for employers and families. Dr. Turnbull will also lead a discussion on options for reducing the level of uninsured through individual mandates.
Individuals, businesses and government all have a role to play in ensuring affordable health care for all Rhode Islanders. Deborah Faulkner, a consultant to the Rhode Island Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner and an expert in health care financing, will discuss different models for financing the system, such as single payer and others, as well as changes to the current financing structure that might be necessary as we move forward toward insuring all Rhode Islanders.
In order to ensure both cost containment and quality we need to ensure that the health care system continues to change and adapt to the latest technologies and ideas. In this meeting the group Laura Adams, CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute, will discuss health information technology in the state. The group will also hear from Michael Vittoria, Director of Human Resources at Sperian Protection and president-elect of Rhode Island Business Group on Health, who will discuss with the group some innovations in employer benefit design, and discuss the ways that these innovations have been, and can continue to be, adapted in Rhode Island.