NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — At a time when bipartisan cooperation on making changes to the nation's health care delivery system is virtually nonexistent, it is time to take politics out of it, one governor says.
“This does not have to be a partisan fight. There is nothing partisan about delivering health care,” Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said Wednesday at the 11th annual World Health Care Congress in National Harbor, Md.
The focus of political leaders and others needs to be on how health care can be delivered in a more cost-efficient way — one that does not “bankrupt” states and other purchasers of health services, Gov. Kitzhaber said.
“It is about redesign of the delivery model,” he said.
One simple but potentially huge cost-saving step, he said, is finding new but simple ways, such as better coordination of care, to reduce the likelihood of individuals ending up in the hospital to treat problems.
On the preventive care side, Gov. Kitzhaber suggested that more financial incentives be given to medical school students to encourage them to become primary care physicians.
While there has been much speculation on how the health care reform law is leading to higher health insurance rates, Gov. Kitzhaber said cost increases also were a big problem in the era before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“People without health insurance went to the hospital. Everyone's rates went up,” he said.
Gov. Kitzhaber acknowledged that Oregon — one of 14 states that elected to run its own health care exchange — had significant problems when individuals tried to enroll online for coverage.
“We were assured by experts that (online enrollment) would work. But at the 11th hour we realized” it would not, he said. Ultimately, exchange enrollment was done manually, he said. As of March, 1 — the most recent date public information is available — nearly 39,000 individuals were enrolled in the Oregon exchange.
Enrollment problems aside, a positive result of the exchange has been to increase competition among health insurers, he said.