Health Care Board Looks To Control Costs

10/03/11 6:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) The newly appointed Green Mountain Health Care Board will formally begin its work this week.

One of the biggest challenges facing the board is finding ways to control health care costs in the coming year.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) According to a new report by the Kaiser Foundation, the cost of private health insurance policies across the country increased more than 9 percent last year.

In 2001, a comprehensive policy for a family of four cost roughly $7,000. Now the report says that same policy costs over $15,000.

The state's Green Mountain Health Care Board will hold its first meeting tomorrow.

The Board will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in Vermont, including reviewing hospital budgets and the cost of private health insurance policies.

Anya Rader Wallack is the chairperson of the board. She thinks Vermont can cut health care costs if the board pursues payment reform, reduces administrative paperwork, promotes prevention initiatives, and expands programs for people with chronic illnesses:

(Rader-Wallack) "I think we can make major progress in that direction. And we're already in discussions with hospitals and some of the larger providers about ways we can control the rate of growth. What kinds of arrangements would they need to make that could guarantee a reasonable rate of growth in their revenues and give them the right incentives. ... I think we can make major progress in a short period of time."

(Kinzel) Currently most health care providers are reimbursed using the so called "fee for service system."

Under this system, a separate fee is charged every time a person receives any care.  Rader Wallack thinks it's critical to do away with this approach and she says there are some good alternatives.

(Rader-Wallack) "Where, for example, you get your knee replaced. Instead of paying the surgeon and the hospital and the rehab center all separately for whatever their little piece of that episode is, you pay one fee and they now have an incentive to make sure that you, for that set fee, use as little resource as possible and still have a good outcome. A key to this is that you have to measure the outcome and make sure that the quality doesn't get compromised."

(Kinzel) Rader Wallack says the Board needs to control health care costs in the next few years because Governor Peter Shumlin says he won't ask lawmakers to support major changes to the state's health care system if the board hasn't been successful in this area.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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