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Leaders of Major National Organizations Collaborate on Approaches to Health Reform

Diverse groups work together to exchange perspectives, identify options for congressional action

For immediate release:
March 27, 2009

Washington, D.C. – Leaders from widely diverse national organizations today stressed their mutual commitment to reform of the nation’s health care system, calling it an “urgent, national necessity” that requires different stakeholders to cooperate in ways that they did not in previous reform efforts. The organizations, in identifying a number of policy approaches where they have reached consensus, pledged to work with lawmakers and each other to support the enactment of comprehensive reform this Congress.

Through a process they called Health Reform Dialogue (PDF), the organizations began holding facilitated discussions six months ago in order to create a forum outside of the political arena for exchanging views on tough policy issues. The participants – all principals of their respective organizations – launched the process to foster a greater sense of cooperation in the forthcoming national health reform debate, and provide broad-based support for congressional health reform efforts. In addition to sharing candid perspectives with each other privately before formal debate on health reform begins, the participants found areas of early consensus they believe can provide Congress with a solid foundation for reforming the health system.

“We entered this process knowing that the issues are complex, and with no illusions that these groups would reach agreement on every aspect of reform. But the diversity of perspectives that were shared at one table, and the spirit of commitment from all sides, made these discussions totally unlike anything that happened in 1994, and that bodes well,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO, American Hospital Association. “Now more than ever before, all of us agree that fundamental reform of the nation’s health care system is critical – right now, this year – and is essential for every sector of society. The American people want bipartisan, responsible reform, and all of us do, too.”

The groups – representing employers, workers, physicians, nurses, consumers, insurers, public health professionals, and others – described a process that they believe will help pave the road for comprehensive reforms to be approved by this Congress.

“While our organizations have worked either side-by-side or across the table for many years, we’ve seen a great benefit from creating this formal dialogue to increase understanding of each other’s positions. I think it reflects that we have all learned from the last health care debate,” said John Castellani, president, Business Roundtable. “This dialogue will pay off as congressional discussion about various reform options gets into full swing,”

Providing a report on the progress-to-date of their discussions, participating organizations identified specific ideas for reform, including methods to expand health coverage, greatly reduce the growth rate for health care costs, and ultimately promote more effective and efficient care. Ideas shared focus on several over-arching principles that participants unanimously agree should be cornerstones for successful health care reform, including:

  1. Expanding health care coverage options to extend insurance to the 46 million Americans who are uninsured;
  2. Reducing the growth of health care costs by increasing value for American health care consumers. Key reforms include implementing Medicare payment reforms, improving billing efficiencies, closing gaps in quality and outcomes; and
  3. Fostering an environment in which prevention, wellness and primary care – not just diagnosis and treatment – are the cornerstones of high-quality care, and more.

The group provided ideas for reform that included consensus on collective and individual responsibility and measures to significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of care. They include:

  • Reforms aimed at having all Americans purchase or otherwise obtain health insurance.
  • Advanceable, refundable tax credits or other subsidies to help more people afford health coverage. 
  • Federal funding to help states with rising Medicaid costs, and establishing a baseline for Medicaid eligibility for all adults at no less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • A public-private partnership to research ways to compare clinical effectiveness of treatments.
  • Medicare payment reforms to increase value by improving prevention and care coordination.
  • Funding for education, training, and loan forgiveness programs as components in a dynamic planning process to bolster the primary care and nursing workforce.

The group’s report also calls for an upfront investment to help set the health system on a path toward significant long-term savings and improve the long-term fiscal future of the nation.

“For decades, attempts to reform America’s health system have met with fractious debate,” said Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E.P. (E), executive director, American Public Health Association. “Until now, comprehensive health care reform has been deadlocked. The time has come to set aside some of our differences, talk openly with each other, and begin to find common ground. This process has significantly helped steer us toward that outcome.”

Organizations participating in the Health Reform Dialogue include: AARP, Advanced Medical Technology Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Business Roundtable, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Families USA, Federation of American Hospitals, Healthcare Leadership Council, National Federation of Independent Business, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Katherine M. Hatwell
AMA Media Relations

Additional Comments from Health Reform Dialogue (HRD) Participants

“The difference between now and 1994 is striking. Employers, consumers and providers are united about the need for reform, and we’re committed to unite on solutions. Several significant questions remain, but this progress should encourage everybody with a stake in fixing the health care system – which is all of us.”
--John Rother, executive vice president, AARP

Advanced Medical Technology Association:
“Everyone here has made a concession in order for health reform to move forward. The President and Congress should approach health reform in the same spirit of commitment and compromise. Disease knows no ideology, nor boundaries. As D.C. delays, people die. America deserves action now, not excuses.”
--Stephen J. Ubl, president & CEO, Advanced Medical Technology Association

America’s Health Insurance Plans:
“The contributions from each stakeholder in the Health Reform Dialogue over the past six months have forged a consensus that the time for health care reform is now.”
--Karen Ignagni, president & CEO, America’s Health Insurance Plans

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network:
“The nearly 11 million cancer survivors in America want Congress to put aside partisan differences and fix the gaping holes in our health care system that have left millions of people without access to lifesaving screenings and treatments. By improving access to quality, affordable health care nationwide, we will save lives.”
--Daniel E. Smith, president, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

American College of Physicians:
“The American College of Physicians is proud to be part of a dynamic process that has enabled a diverse group of stakeholders to learn from each other and through dialogue, find consensus on important reforms to expand coverage, promote prevention and primary care, and bring more value to health care.”
--John Tooker, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.P., executive vice president & CEO, American College of Physicians

American Hospital Association:
“Far too often, the women and men of America’s hospitals see firsthand the effects that lack of coverage has on patients and families. That’s why we’re committed to reform that improves health and health care in America. Through this dialogue, we’ve collectively identified key policies to move the debate forward.”
--Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO, American Hospital Association

American Medical Association:
“To bolster lawmakers’ work on health care reform this year, AMA and its partners in the Health Reform Dialogue group reached consensus on key issues that can be built upon to help our nation achieve the vision of quality, affordable health care and coverage for all Americas.”
--Samantha Rosman, M.D., board member, American Medical Association

American Nurses Association:
“A reformed health care system will rely heavily on the nursing workforce, for chronic disease management, care coordination, prevention, and primary care. That is why ANA appreciates participating in the mutual exchange of ideas and perspectives at the HRD table, to find common ground, and build momentum toward enacting meaningful reform.”
--Linda J. Stierle, M.S.N., R.N., N.E.A.-B.C., CEO, American Nurses Association

American Public Health Association:
“Through comprehensive health system reform with a major focus on prevention, we have a critical opportunity to improve the health of our nation. The time has come for change, and the common ground we’ve found provides a meaningful starting point from which to move forward.”
--Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E.P. (E), executive director, American Public Health Association

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association:
“As insurers to nearly 102 million Americans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are focused on improving quality, reigning in costs and expanding coverage to everyone. We understand what is at stake for our country, and we support an open dialogue about solutions that will put health care reform within reach.”
--Scott P. Serota, president and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association

Business Roundtable:
“Health care cost is a top pressure facing American businesses and workers, and is hurting our ability to compete globally. We must make our system competitive by increasing the value of our health care and delivering higher quality care at less cost for all Americans.”
--John Castellani, president, Business Roundtable

Catholic Health Association of the United States:
“Catholic Health Association is pleased to be part of the Health Reform Dialogue, a diverse group of organizations committed to enacting meaningful health care reform. We hope the areas of common ground reached so far will be helpful to lawmakers and others during upcoming health reform efforts. CHA will continue to collaborate with coalition partners and policymakers to achieve a health care system worthy of the American people.”
--Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and CEO, Catholic Health Association

Families USA:
“The common ground reached by key health care stakeholders is substantial and unprecedented – indeed, even historic. Never before have these diverse organizations achieved such a significant consensus, and this augers well for enacting real health care reform this year.”
--Ron Pollack, executive director, Families USA

Healthcare Leadership Council:
“We’re sending a message that health care reform has become the art of the possible. Organizations with diverse views have forged common ground on measures to strengthen quality and cost-effectiveness while extending health coverage to all Americans. This collaboration is an important step in making health reform a reality this year.”
--Mary Grealy, president, Healthcare Leadership Council

National Federation of Independent Business:
“Health care reform must be a priority – we remain committed to reaching a viable solution. It’s imperative that reform addresses the cost of health care, especially for our nation’s small businesses. No reform should be considered without ensuring our nation’s job creators have realistic solutions that work for them.”
--Dan Danner, president and CEO, National Federation of Independent Business

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America:
“Through the HRD process, we were able to find common ground on key policy areas that can build on the strengths of the U.S. health care system. This marks an important step forward in helping get a comprehensive health care reform package on the President’s desk this year.”
--Billy Tauzin, president and CEO, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
“Finding common ground is a key step to reforming our health care system. The Health Reform Dialogue provides a constructive foundation for moving the debate forward and building momentum.”
--R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce