November 10, 2011

Whitehouse Hearing Demonstrates Potential Benefits of Health Care Delivery System Reform

Washington, DC – Today, as the Congressional “supercommittee” continues looking for ways to reduce our federal deficit and with House Republicans this year pushing for cuts in Medicare, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) brought together a panel of experts to discuss ways to reduce the skyrocketing costs in our health care system while improving the quality of care people receive.  Whitehouse chaired a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to examine the Obama Administration’s progress in implementing the delivery system reforms included in the Affordable Care Act, and to provide examples of successful reform efforts on the state and local levels from around the country.

“Delivery system reform may not get much public attention, but it is the best way to lower costs and improve quality in our health care system,” said Whitehouse.  “The urgent nature of our debt and deficit, and the pressure that our rising health care costs create, should drive us toward the promise that health care delivery system reform holds.”

According to President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, reforms to our health care delivery system could save more than $700 billion, or 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), without hurting the quality of care.  The Affordable Care Act established myriad programs to achieve significant delivery system reforms, including a provision to improve the value and efficiency of care delivered in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which in turn could influence the rest of our health care system.

Jonathan Blum, Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), testified today about the Administration’s progress in implementing the Affordable Care Act provisions.  “In a year and a half since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, CMS has made major progress in implementing its delivery system reforms,” said Blum.  “By strengthening our programs and making sure we are spending taxpayer dollars wisely, we are ushering in a new day for American health care consumers.  We will continue to build on these reforms in the years to come.”

Also testifying today was Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher Koller, who spoke about the Ocean State’s efforts to reform health care delivery to achieve savings and improve care.  In his testimony, Koller talked about lessons he has learned through Rhode Island’s process, and stated that successful reform efforts must include “primary care infrastructure development,” public oversight, and coordination between health care payers.

Senator Whitehouse has been a leader in the delivery system reform effort since his time as Rhode Island’s Attorney General.  In 2001, then Attorney General Whitehouse founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute, a collaboration focused on producing significant, measurable improvements in health care quality, safety, and value in the state.  Since elected to Congress, Whitehouse has also been one of the most vocal advocates of health IT in the Senate.  He helped secure new investments in Health Information Technology in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including a provision to establish the Regional Extension Center Program.  Whitehouse was also a strong advocate for the inclusion of delivery system reforms in the Affordable Care Act.

Whitehouse also wrote to President Obama in September to urge him to protect Medicare benefits by prioritizing delivery system reform in their efforts to reduce health care costs.

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