Forum Delves into Root Causes of High Health Care Costs

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For Immediate Release

October 28, 2013

Contact: Alice Straight communications officer, 203-639-0550 Ext. 309
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PRESS RELEASE

FORUM DELVES INTO ROOT CAUSES OF HIGH HEALTH CARE COSTS

More than 250 people were expected to converge at Quinnipiac University’s North Haven campus today to hear a panel of experts weigh-in and offer different perspectives on the problems driving the high cost of health care in Connecticut.
 
The featured speaker at “Drowning in Health Care Costs: All Hands on Deck” was headlining author and investigative journalist Steven Brill. His cover story in Time magazine in February 2013 revealed the arbitrary and mysterious system of health care pricing, particularly at hospitals. Brill was joined by Patrick Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Hospital in Derby, and Kevin Lembo, state comptroller. The discussion was moderated by journalist Susan Campbell.

“The foundation’s ‘Reform to Transform’ initiative is about focusing attention on building a high performing health care system that meets the needs of all people and is sustainable over the long haul,” said Frances G. Padilla, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, which hosted the forum with its parent organization, the Connecticut Health Advancement and Research Trust (CHART).  “The Affordable Care Act provides a great chance for Connecticut to move to the next level, if we are smart enough to take full advantage of the opportunities it offers. ”

In his 36-page cover story, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us,” Brill reported that a major part of the problem is hospitals’ arbitrary pricing based on an internal list known as the “chargemaster.”  Brill wrote in his piece, “That so few consumers seem to be aware of the chargemaster demonstrates how well the health care industry has steered the debate from why bills are so high to who should pay them.”

As state comptroller,  Kevin Lembo, who served as the state’s first Healthcare Advocate, said that one of his chief responsibilities is to shop smart on behalf of the 200,000 individuals on the state health plan. “And that begins with basic price and quality comparison.  We have been able to identify several ongoing ways to improve quality of care, while also saving state dollars.”

He said, “These efforts include minimizing emergency room visits, encouraging maintenance drug adherence and negotiating better terms on oncology drugs and other prescriptions.  As we achieve greater transparency in health care, and continue to unravel some of the mysteries behind health care costs, we can improve delivery of care for everyone.”

Acknowledging the social, political, structural and economic challenges of the current system, Patrick Charmel,  who also serves as  CEO of Planetree Inc., a nonprofit subsidiary of Griffin Health Services Corporation recognized for its model of patient empowerment and patient-centered care, said, “It is counterproductive to characterize any single element as the cause of the system’s current failures.”  

He said, “The system is broken, and hospitals, because they are essential to the health and well-being of the communities they serve, and because they are the most capable providers in the healthcare delivery system, must play a leadership role.”

“Hospitals must join with payers, providers, healthcare consumers and policy makers to design a system that delivers safer and more effective care at a lower cost with barriers to access,” Charmel said.


For further information about the series, please visit the foundation website at www.universalhealthct.org.  

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