KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Center For Medicare And Medicare Innovation Launches Projects To Improve Care, Reduce Cost

Kaiser Health News: "Promising fast action, the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is launching a series of initiatives aimed at improving medical care while reducing its cost, officials said Tuesday. ... In one initiative, eight states will participate in a Medicare demonstration project to evaluate the effectiveness of doctors and other health professionals working 'in a more integrated fashion and receiving more coordinated payment,' according to CMS, the parent agency of the center and a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. … Another project, testing the effectiveness of doctors and other health personnel working in teams to treat low-income patients at community health centers, will coordinate care for up to 195,000 Medicare beneficiaries at 500 centers, according to CMS. In a related project, the federal government will give states money to test ways to coordinate care for Medicaid patients with at least two chronic conditions" (Carey, 11/16).

Los Angeles Times: "The 10-year, $10-billion effort - which proponents hope can reduce hospital-acquired infections, help ensure seniors take their medications, and more - has garnered far less attention than the politically charged debate about repealing the law" but it is starting to win "the support of corporate leaders, consumer groups, doctors and healthcare experts across the political spectrum. At Tuesday's kickoff, leaders from IBM, the American Medical Assn., the American Nurses Assn. and insurance giant WellPoint joined consumer advocates and administration officials in Washington to praise the program" (Levey, 11/17).

CQ HealthBeat: Karen Ignani, president and chief executive of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement: "Within the private sector, innovative designs are flourishing, and part of the work of the new center will involve partnerships with these initiatives and the dissemination of information about what is working so that successful designs can be replicated across the country. … Our plans look forward to working with CMS as the new center progresses." CMS Administrator Don Berwick said the center "will encourage a 'connection between safety and coordinated care'" (Adams, 11/16). 

PBS NewsHour: The center's "work could be crucial to the law's success, experts say. 'It might actually be the most important provision in health reform law, because the ability to improve care and reduce cost growth is the key to making health reform sustainable,' said Stuart Guterman, vice president of the Program on Payment and System Reform at the Commonwealth Fund. … Medicare and Medicaid have long been a laboratory for testing payments reforms, says Guterman, who was director of the CMS Office of Research, Development, and Information from 2002 to 2005 -- reforms that were often later picked up by private health insurers. But the new law provides unprecedented authority -- and funding -- to do more" (Winerman, 11/16).

The Hill: "The goal is to create public-private partnerships, Berwick said, and the innovation center will consult with stakeholders every step of the way and create an 'open innovation community' to serve as an information clearinghouse of best practices. … American Medical Association President Cecil Wilson, who was on a CMS call with reporters, applauded the partnership aspect. But 'for the models to succeed,' he warned lawmakers, 'it is crucial that Congress fix the broken Medicare physician payment system' and prevent a 23 percent cut in physician rates next month that could lead to an exodus of doctors out of the program" (Pecquet, 11/16).

Reuters: Berwick "said on Tuesday new models for care delivery and payments will help drive down costs across the health care system. 'The Affordable Care Act created this center to provide solutions to the problems we're talking about -- a fragmented system that needs to be improved,' he said on a call with reporters. … 'I think everyone's really interested in getting better efficiency in the system,' said Amy Thornton, a health policy analyst who follows CMS for Washington Research Group. '(The center) really could be a big highlight of the health reform bill' (Stephenson, 11/16).

Time notes that the announcement is "an important endeavor to watch and one that many reformers believe holds the most promise for bending the health care cost curve." But the magazine also points out that HHS may have been employing "a classic media strategy: make your own positive news early in hopes it will mitigate the negative news that's on the way." The press briefing came a day before Berwick makes his first appearance on Capitol Hill since President Barack Obama used a recess appointment to move him to CMS. "Republicans are, to put it mildly, looking forward to this. ... Expect a peek of what's to come in 2011, once Republicans control the three committees in the House with jurisdiction over health care and can call HHS officials the Hill to testify pretty much whenever they want" (Pickert, 11/16).

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