May 28

Written by: Mark Blum
5/28/2009 10:49 AM 

We had a great event in San Francisco where we hosted the fourth "Health Care Summit Conversation." Held at the University of California-San Francisco’s Mission Bay Conference Center, we brought together 12 government, health care, labor and business leaders to talk about how to modernize our health care system. The current health care crisis, the rising cost of health care, prevention, chronic disease management, health information technology and affordable access for all were key topics of conversation.

It was quite a diverse group of panelists representing small business, labor, public health, hospitals and businesses. In fact, when we caught the moderator, Bill Press, backstage after the event, he said the San Francisco summit was the largest and most diverse panel we’ve had yet.

Despite the range of interests represented, there was broad agreement on the drivers of health care costs, and the solutions that will reduce cost growth. On prevention, Billy Tauzin, the CEO of PhRMA (which represents major national drug manufacturers), threw his support in with progressive California health care providers and veteran Democratic leaders like Dick Gephardt in calling for a robust national investment in disease prevention and federal income-based subsidies for high quality health coverage.

Panelists also agreed that incentives within our health care system must be dramatically changed in order to better manage chronic disease, the biggest cost driver in the system. Paul Markovich, the COO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of California agreed with national labor and business leaders that patient cost-sharing–- that is, copayments and deductibles for drugs and physician services -- should be eliminated entirely for patients enrolled in chronic disease management programs, because they discourage patients from getting appropriate care.

Considering our location, it was only natural that panelists would talk about the recent health reform effort in the state. California’s current budget challenge also highlighted the link between escalating health care costs and economic competitiveness. Panelists shared the lessons learned from the California experience and how we can best apply these lessons to health care reform happening at the national level.

Despite California’s failure to pass reform, there was remarkable optimism around the table about the leadership in Washington’s ability to pass health care this year. Judging by the agreement around the table in California, that optimism does not seem misplaced.

Check out these behind the scene videos and photos from the San Francisco event >>



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