MONTPELIER, Vt.—The Vermont Health Care Reform Commission has selected a three-member consulting team led by Harvard School of Public Health economics professor William Hsiao to design proposed road maps to guide the state in revamping its healthcare payment and delivery system. Hsiao has worked with China, Mexico, Sweden and Taiwan to reform their systems. The team—which also includes Steven Kappel, founder of the healthcare-policy development and evaluation firm Policy Integrity in Montpelier, and Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor—beat out the Lewin Group in Falls Church, Va., and Mathematica Policy Research in Washington in a bid for the $300,000, six-month state contract. The contract calls for Hsiao, Kappel and Gruber to design three different scenarios that state healthcare policy officials can consider as possible reform models. They include a single-payer public option, a mixed public-private payer option and third option to be determined by the consultants. Details of Hsiao, Kappel and Gruber's bid have not yet been released, but they are expected to be made public on or around July 15 after completion of the contract signing. The consultants are required to deliver their reform options to Vermont's governor and general assembly by Feb. 1, 2011, according to the agreement.
Regionals: West Penn to consolidate hospitals and other news
PITTSBURGH—West Penn Allegheny Health System said it will consolidate its Pittsburgh hospitals and cut up to 1,500 jobs, the latest announced effort to downsize operations at the financially struggling health system. In May, the system said it would close inpatient and emergency services at Suburban General Hospital, a 59-bed campus of Allegheny General. The consolidation, scheduled for January 2011, will cut capacity at Western Pennsylvania Hospital to 202 beds from 505 beds and move orthopedics, oncology, cardiology and neurology to Allegheny General Hospital. Christopher Olivia, the system's president and CEO, in a televised message to employees, said turnaround efforts at the system have cut costs but do not go far enough. “We can't continue to simply cut costs, but rather we must find more appropriate ways to eliminate unnecessary expense.” Western Pennsylvania Hospital will also close its emergency room but will continue to operate a burn unit, obstetrics, neonatal intensive care, bariatric surgery and inpatient rehabilitation services. The system lost $11.6 million on operations during the first nine months of its fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The system lost $38.5 million on operations in fiscal 2009 and another $88.8 million on operations the prior year. Olivia attributed the poor performance to declining payment from Medicare and Medicaid and fewer hospitalized patients.
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