Health First Authority update and callers to the helpline

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Yesterday, I was in a meeting of the Cost, Cost Containment, and Finance sub-group of the HealthFirst Connecticut Authority. The conversation focused on cost containment strategies in three different contexts. In some cases, wellness programs were credited with playing a role – albeit a vague role – in reducing costs. These are the programs sometimes offered by employers to help workers “stay healthy” and manage chronic health risks.

But this entry is not actually about cost containment.

Another issue that came up – and will be discussed in future meetings – was so-called “Never Events.” These are the stories of medical errors, like amputating the wrong limb or leaving surgical instruments in a patient. The impact of these events on cost is unclear, but some hospital groups are now saying that they will not bill for those events and some insurers are refusing to pay for them. (Shockingly, there’s not a law that prohibits them for billing for doing the wrong thing to us!)

This entry is not about never events either.

As Bev Brakeman said in the meeting, many people face illness or injury despite their best efforts to maintain their health. Further, the impact of these events on people’s lives is as traumatic – though more mundane – as the never events we talked about.

This entry is about the urgency of changing these daily events that happen to people we each know.

My first day answering calls to our Consumer Health Action Network hotline (888.873.4585), I got a call from someone who had been diagnosed with 2 kinds of cancer and had foregone treatment because they had no insurance. In the two weeks I’ve been here, I have heard a woman say she may surrender herself to her ailment because she does not know how she can afford to fight it and there was a resident who was in the hospital for 2 days and got a bill that she said, “I could put a down payment on a house for the amount they charged me.” Several other callers simply want basic preventive care, but cannot get insurance because of “pre-existing conditions.”

We are able to offer some assistance to folks who need to navigate the health care system. But the real solution will only come from fundamental policy change and the political, financial, and social will to make our healthcare system more humane.

Connie Razza