Noting that the healthcare reform debate in Washington “has a way of veering off track,” Jim Douglas, the Republican governor of Vermont, told attendees of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society annual conference in Atlanta that states are being forced to confront problems and take action out of necessity.
Vermont governor offers state perspective
“Unlike the federal government, states can't print money,” said Douglas, who co-chairs the State Alliance for e-Health. Offering a contrast to the recent healthcare summit in Washington, Douglas added that, at a recent meeting of the National Governors Association, "I was amazed at how much we agreed upon."
Douglas said the Washington debate has been too narrowly focused on expanding coverage and arguing over who will pay the additional costs. "No matter who pays," he said healthcare is on a track to bankrupt families, employers and state governments.
Douglas said 25% of Vermont residents are on Medicaid, and the state has succeeded in lowering costs by concentrating on improving the quality of primary care Medicaid beneficiaries receive and assisting in the coordination of their care through a health information exchange financed by an "assessment" on health insurance claims. “We don't use the ‘T-word,'” Douglas said, clearly referring to the word tax.
Other state programs Douglas cited as examples included a Minnesota initiative to rank providers according to a cost and quality formula based on the cardiovascular, diabetes and preventive care they provide; and a Washington State effort aimed at lowering the overuse of certain procedures.
Quipping that the "second-largest hospital in Vermont is in New Hampshire," Douglas said hospital service areas often spill across state lines. That means if state reform initiatives are to succeed, the "federal government must be a full partner,” he said.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.