Actions to Strengthen Our Health Care System and Our Nation’s Finances
The current growth rate for health care spending is a central area of focus for policymakers. A number of factors contribute to the rise in spending, including changing demographics and the aging of the baby boom generation, the growth in chronic illness, advances in medical technologies and system inefficiencies. Achieving a sustainable level of health care spending may require reducing both the cost of individual services and the use of total services. If health care spending is not slowed, the effects will be profound and affect everyone – health care providers, the government, insurers and employers, and individuals.
In times of fiscal crisis, the federal government repeatedly turns to cutting Medicare and Medicaid spending, almost exclusively through reductions to provider payments. This will not put us on a sustainable path for the future. Numerous studies have found – and the flawed physician sustainable growth rate confirms – that reducing provider payment rates does not result in reduced Medicare spending on services. Ratcheting provider payments will not put us on a sustainable path for the future; we need real targeted reforms, not blunt cuts to provider payment.
The AHA’s vision is a society of healthy communities where all individuals can reach their highest potential for health. Health coverage is critical to fulfilling this vision. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access to health care coverage, enacted significant insurance reforms and put in place opportunities to reform the delivery system. To help expand health care coverage to millions, the hospital field will undergo changes that will stretch Medicare and Medicaid dollars further.
As policymakers grapple to rein in federal spending, they should focus on the following two interconnected strategies that will improve the health care system, ensure the short- and long-term financial viability of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and tackle the federal debt and deficit:
- Promote and reward accountability. We need to re-structure the system in a way that promotes and rewards accountability – to patients, their families and their communities.
- Use limited health care dollars wisely. We need to focus on using limited health care dollars more wisely – in ways that eliminate inefficiency and improve quality of care for patients.
Each strategy has six priority recommendations. Each recommendation has a list of suggested actions that providers, the government, insurers and employers, and individuals can take to strengthen our health care system and our nation’s finances. Everyone bears some responsibility and everyone must contribute to the solution. To speed success, our efforts must be aligned.