Tough Decisions Ahead for Addressing Health Care Cost and Quality in Connecticut

By Jill Zorn

JZ graphicConnecticut’s Health Care Cabinet members had very mixed reactions to the draft recommendations  presented at their July 12 meeting on how to control health care costs in the state.

In 2015, the Connecticut General Assembly charged the Cabinet with coming up with a framework to slow the increase in health care costs in Connecticut, while still improving health care quality and outcomes.   This charge was written into SB 811, now known as PA 15-146An Act Concerning Hospitals, Insurers and Health Care Consumer.

Cabinet members, including representatives of insurers, hospitals, physicians and other health care stakeholders, advocates and state agencies listened carefully to the July 12 presentation by Bailit Health, the consultants who have been guiding the Cabinet’s work since January.  The consultants walked through their preliminary recommendations, emphasizing that their proposed framework is a “straw model” that should be viewed only as a jumping off point for discussion and refinement, and not as the “last word”.

Many of the ideas in the straw model come from strategies being implemented in other states as well as efforts already underway in Connecticut.  The framework consists of six interlocking sections:

  1. Improve population health
  2. Cap cost growth
  3. Support providers to transform care
  4. Support market competition
  5. Use data to make policy
  6. Coordinate and align state strategies

Each section contains multiple suggested goals and strategies.

We need a robust discussion on the proposed straw model.   But many barriers stand in the way of holding a constructive discussion and finding agreement including:

  • Lack of a clear statement of a shared vision and goals for Connecticut’s health care system
  • Complexity of the topic
  • One person’s health care “waste” is another person’s job, or another person’s potentially life-saving treatment
  • Lack of trust among stakeholders

The Cabinet has until December 1 to finalize recommendations and submit a report to the Connecticut General Assembly.  Gauging from the reactions at the July meeting, it will not be easy for this disparate group to come to consensus.

The Cabinet would benefit from hearing from the public as they work to craft their final recommendations.  One option would be to provide public comment at their next meeting, scheduled for September 13 at 9 am at the Legislative Office Building.

Connecticut is trailing many other blue states that have a head start on tackling health care cost and quality concerns. We need a more coordinated effort.  We can and should do better.  The status quo is not an option.

If you’re considering commenting on the straw model, you can learn more by digging into these resources:

  • A previous blog about the Cabinet cost containment study can be found here
  • Materials and minutes from the Cabinet’s 2016 meetings can be found here, beginning with the meeting on January 12, 2016 (scroll down). These materials include overviews of how six other states are working on health care cost and quality:  Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland, Oregon and Washington.
  • The Cabinet’s charge from the Connecticut General Assembly can be found in PA 15-146, Section 17, (pages 40-42)
  • To watch an archived CT-N video of the consultant’s presentation on July 12 and Cabinet members’ initial reactions, go here
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