Health reform update – the power of price transparency, more SIM concerns

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At an important Public Health Committee hearing Wednesday, Senate leaders from both parties testified together on a slate of seven bills that would make a great start to reforming health care in our state. Among other things the bills address facility fees, price variation that has no relation to quality, hospital consolidation oversight, EMR assistance for providers, health care price, cost and quality transparency, accountable care, and creates a badly needed CT Health Policy Commission, based on MA’s successful model. Together these reforms both address the acute needs facing our state, and build structures to anticipate and solve future problems, making quality coverage affordable and building value throughout the system. The bipartisan support is special cause for hope that CT can finally get beyond flawed, agenda-laden health reform planning with something constructive. The Senators, advocates, and others also testified in favor of a bill that would, among other things, create a study to consider better uses for the federal SIM grant funding.

As for SIM, yesterday the steering committee approved reductions in standards for Patient-Centered Medical Homes, considerably weakening health assessment, health literacy, and other provisions. At last month’s steering committee meeting, SIM staff over-rode the recommendations of the SIM consumer/provider/payer workgroup that spent months developing realistic standards that work for CT. In response to providers on the committee, the steering committee decided to expand practices assistance from only technical assistance in transformation to also include out-right grants of SIM funds to practices. In response to community organizations and others on the SIM committee, the grant decision was also extended to community organizations participating in SIM’s community connection program. Independent advocates have raised concerns about ethics and conflicts of interest in SIM planning and funding.