Quality, Universal Coverage Needed in Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

Byline: David Meyer

This is the first in a series of question-and-answer columns, written by local medical experts, about health care reform. When Congress returns from its summer recess, it is expected to take up a reform package.

How would you control health care costs?

Each day, St. Vincent's - a member of Ascension Health, the largest nonprofit health care system in the nation - works to provide care for uninsured and underinsured patients.

But even as a nonprofit organization, we must balance the books and ensure the sustainability of our health system. We fully support health care reform and appreciate the need to fund coverage for all, which requires finding ways to control health care costs.

We encourage dialogue to reframe payment to achieve better outcomes and promote more coordinated care, and we support a path away from fee-for-service medicine.

We think we should get paid for improving patient care and outcomes. We believe in broader payment reforms that will pay based on quality and patient outcomes, not on how many services are provided to a patient.

How would you expand access?

As a member of Ascension Health, we believe that a redesigned health care delivery system must ensure 100 percent access and 100 percent coverage for all. There are many roads to reform, and we're willing to let others pick the precise route.

Our concern is the bottom line: reform that covers everyone; ensures access to needed care; provides minimum benefits roughly equal to those a mid-level, white collar worker might enjoy; and a system in which everyone participates by enrolling in a plan and contributing financially.

In short, 100 percent access and 100 percent coverage at a reasonable, shared cost.

We believe the first step should be changing insurance rules so that all people can obtain and afford insurance.

We support insurance rules that limit premium variances based on health condition, age and sex and guarantee issue (a requirement to offer insurance to anyone seeking insurance regardless of health condition), eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions and waiting periods for insurance eligibility. …