Personal Accountability, Reducing Costs Crucial to Health Care Reform, Advise Oklahoma Health Care Stakeholders

Article excerpt

NORMAN - Despite the potential changes that could come about because of health care reform, four of Oklahoma's health care stakeholders agree on at least two things: The cost of health care must come down, and personal accountability should play a role in that happening.

Representatives from Oklahoma's hospitals, health insurers, physicians and employers gathered Thursday afternoon for a conference on health care reform and its impact on business and medicine. The event was sponsored by the University of Oklahoma's Price College of Business.

Craig Jones, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said the "axis of health care" focuses on quality of care, access to care and cost of care. But perfecting all three is easier said than done.

"If we want to tackle any two of those three, we can get our arms around them pretty well," Jones said. "But when you try to get your arms around all three, that's where the challenge really is."

Oklahoma has a particularly low number of primary care physicians, Jones said. So if 30 million more Americans gain access to health insurance, the question remains of who will treat the Oklahoma portion of newly insured. Jones said the state will see more physician extenders, such as nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants, helping to handle the load. Medical schools are doing their part to attract more students, he said, but it will still be seven to nine years before today's enrollees are practicing medicine.

Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, professor of pediatrics at the OU College of Medicine, said that in order to attract more physicians to Oklahoma, medical liability reform must be addressed. Physicians today also expect a different quality of life than their predecessors, such as more time off to go to their child's soccer game and compensation for being on call. To attract physicians, those issues must be taken into consideration, she said.

Employers are digesting the health care reform bill to determine how and when it will affect them, said Stephen Merrill, vice president of human resources for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Corp. …

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