Investing in a Healthier America: The Role of Social Determinants

This briefing examined the challenges of aligning or combining public funding sources to achieve better health outcomes, how analysts can prove value in such ventures, and the role of health care professionals in caring for patients who have both medical and non-medical needs.






Post-Election Symposium: Health Care Policy in 2017

The Alliance hosted a post-election, half-day symposium previewing critical 2017 health care policy issues, one of the first major gatherings of the health care policy community after the 2016 election.






Medicare and Prescription Drug Prices

This briefing featured presentations by our experts highlighting the trends in Medicare regarding prescription drug pricing, and panelists discussed an array of policy options to align drug prices with value through alternative payment models.






Health Care for Veterans: Where Things Stand & Next Steps

This briefing provided an introduction to the VA health system, presented an overview of how the VA acts as both provider and purchaser of care, and discussed policy prospects for the future. Speakers also assessed the potential for increased collaboration between civilian care and VA providers to meet the needs of today’s veterans and those of the future.






Open Enrollment Preview: Checking the Vitals of the Marketplaces

The Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces rely on robust competition to control costs and to provide consumer choice. But the decisions of several large insurers to scale back their 2017 marketplace participation, and the failure of many health insurance co-ops will leave marketplace shoppers in many states with fewer choices than they had in 2016. Furthermore, those insurers remaining in the exchanges have often found their marketplace customers to be less healthy than they projected, and they are raising premiums in response. Our briefing focuses on these trends, what they mean for the long-term viability of the marketplaces, and what public policy steps can be taken to bring more healthy people into the risk pool and to encourage insurer participation in the individual market.






Assessing Innovations in Medicaid

Medicaid is testing numerous new alternative payment and delivery system models to enhance the coordination of the health care services provided to millions of low-income Americans. This briefing examined the range of Medicaid’s efforts to improve care and promote value, including integrating health with non-clinical and behavioral services, creating managed care organizations, and instituting regional care collaborative organizations. Our panel also addressed Medicaid’s role in managing emerging issues such as the opioid epidemic and the spread of the Zika virus.






High-Need, High-Cost Patients: Challenges & Promising Models

Health systems have applied many innovative new strategies for improving quality and reducing costs when it comes to care for high-need, high-cost patients, who typically have multiple chronic conditions. Which of these innovations show promise, and what can we learn from them?






Zika Virus: Control, Monitoring, and Prevention

At our briefing for reporters at the National Press Club, NIH’s Anthony Fauci provided an update on the state-of-play of the Zika virus in the U.S. A panel representing federal, state and local officials then discussed details of how the response will be coordinated and where resources are needed.






Trends in Coverage and Affordability on the ACA Marketplaces

In advance of the fourth open enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which begins Nov. 1, this briefing examined who has gained coverage, who remains uninsured, and why uninsured individuals have not obtained coverage. Speakers also discussed marketplace stability, factors driving premium trends, and the outlook for 2017 premiums. In addition to insights from our panelists, this briefing included a discussion of survey results from The Commonwealth Fund ACA Tracking Survey and what it tells us about consumers’ experiences with the marketplaces.






MACRA: Stakeholder Considerations and Next Steps

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently closed the public comment period for its proposed rule to implement the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). This means that Medicare will soon change its payment system for physicians, and there could be broad implications for physicians, health systems, health plans, consumers and others.






Briefing for Reporters on MACRA & Medicare Payments

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) closed on June 27 the public comment period for its proposed rule implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). This means that Medicare will soon change its payment system to emphasize value over volume, and physicians caring for Medicare patients will need to make decisions about how to adapt their practices to the new incentives.






Workplace Wellness: Promises, Challenges, and Legal Questions

Employers have long been advancing a variety of efforts to engage their employees in their health care, reduce absenteeism, and decrease the cost of employee health benefits. Recently, however, some employer wellness programs offering significant incentives for participation–or penalties for nonparticipation–have raised legal issues regarding privacy and discrimination and are the subject of a recent proposed rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).






Biosimilars in the United States: Next Steps

With biosimilar biological products moving from the lab to the marketplace, key policy and regulatory questions are being actively debated, with important implications for industry, patients, and the health care system.






Zika Virus: Considerations for Public Health and Health Care Systems

This briefing will explore policy considerations to ensure that public health and health care systems are appropriately equipped to monitor, prepare for, and respond to Zika virus, as well as other future vector-borne outbreaks. While there have not been any cases of local transmission identified in the continental U.S., this mosquito-borne disease has captured the attention of public health and health care officials across the nation, especially as warmer weather approaches. As of April 27, 2016, 426 travel-associated Zika cases were reported in the United States and 596 locally-acquired cases were reported in U.S. territories.






Beyond Flint: Examining Water Quality Regulation

While the national news media and presidential candidates have focused on the water crisis occurring in Flint, Michigan, the city is not the only one facing a contaminated water system. With infrastructure over a century old, outdated regulatory legislation, and difficult-to-track contaminants entering our water, the federal government is tasked with solving current problems and mitigating future ones.






Patrick Conway on Medicare Payment Demos

CMS’s Patrick Conway will meet with reporters May 4th to answer questions about recent developments in ACOs, bundled payments and other Medicare payment demonstrations. He’ll also discuss a recently-announced demo, Comprehensive Primary Care Plus, which could bring more flexibility to 20,000 primary care physicians, and may cover services such as telemedicine.






Value-Based Pricing for Prescription Drugs: Opportunities and Challenges

Recent pharmaceutical innovations offer unprecedented possibilities for curing, treating, or preventing a range of diseases. However, patients, providers and payers alike have raised concerns about the affordability and sustainability of these drugs. As a response to price increases of both single-source and generic drugs, some stakeholders are calling for a move towards basing payments on value, and some payers and pharmaceutical manufacturers are exploring ways to base payments on outcomes. However, many challenges remain.






Medicare Payment System Reforms: What Do We Know?

Medicare is testing new ways to pay for medical services, emphasizing value rather than volume, and evidence is beginning to build about successes and challenges. This briefing will examine what we know so far about the basic models, savings, quality, the impact on patients and the prospects for replication.






Reforming the Health Care Delivery System: A Team Approach

Reforming the American health care system is a front-burner topic for many policymakers. One main reason is the desire to extend coverage to some if not all of the more than 45 million uninsured in this country. But there is an emerging consensus that reform must also encompass ways to improve quality and value in the system, and one of the prime targets for reform is the way care is delivered. Advocates, analysts, policymakers, consumers and the business and labor communities are all looking for ways to get more value for their health care dollar – delivering better care at lower cost.






Briefing for Reporters on State Health Initiatives

A governor met with reporters Friday, February 19 to discuss the latest health care innovations and changes they are pursuing or implementing. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., discussed his experience with the state’s program to move newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries to qualified health plans, and his intentions for changes moving forward.






Health Care Consolidation: What You Need to Know

A top Federal Trade Commission official, along with key experts, met with reporters Dec. 15 to discuss the recent surge in health care consolidation; the driving forces behind this trend; and the implications for policymakers and enforcers.






Health Care Out from Behind Bars: Meeting Reentering Prisoners’ Needs Efficiently

Research shows that approximately 40 percent of former federal prisoners and over 60 percent of former state prisoners are rearrested within three years of release and many are re-incarcerated. Individuals transitioning into and out of the criminal justice system include many low-income adults with significant physical and mental health needs. Through outreach and education, correctional facilities are increasingly playing a key role in connecting eligible individuals to health care coverage and other social supports to facilitate their reintegration into the community. The Medicaid coverage expansion is also providing new opportunities to increase health care access to this particular population and potentially improving health outcomes, while bringing down costs. This briefing, the last in our “Medicaid: Beyond the Silos” series, built on last year’s correctional health briefing, with an added focus on reentry programs, and further explored the intersection of health policy and the criminal justice system.






Health Care Consolidation: Trends, Impact and Regulation

In 2014, there were a total of 1,299 mergers and acquisitions in the health care sector – a record number, up from 1,035 the year before. This briefing will discussed the driving forces behind this recent increase in consolidation; the scope and extent of consolidation among doctors, hospitals and insurers; implications for consumers and other stakeholders; and the roles of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.






Taking the Right Meds at the Right Time: Medication Adherence, Health Outcomes and Costs

Evidence shows that medication adherence—the extent to which a person takes medications as prescribed by their health care providers—is associated with improved health care outcomes for many costly chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. However, only 50% percent of Americans are estimated to take their medications as prescribed, and non-adherence is estimated to result in added direct and indirect costs to the healthcare system of over $300 billion per year. The challenges and policy questions surrounding medication adherence affect Medicare, Medicaid, and the private sector – and offer a window into broader questions surrounding the ability of our health care system to coordinate care, particularly for people with multiple chronic conditions. In this briefing, top experts from the public and private sectors explored key policy, practical, and research questions surrounding medication adherence and management of medications.






High-Need, High-Cost Patients: The Role of Behavioral Health

Behavioral health conditions, including mental health issues and substance use disorders, affect nearly one in five Americans and account for $57 billion in health care costs annually. This briefing discussed current initiatives to integrate behavioral and physical health care services in order to improve quality of care and reduce overall health care costs.






Medicare Open Enrollment Preview

With Medicare Advantage (Part C) and prescription drug (Part D) open enrollment beginning October 15th, this briefing took a close look at what to expect, including trends in premiums and cost sharing, plan availability and benefit design.






Home and Community-Based Services: System-wide Coordination to Improve Care, Hold Down Costs

The movement toward home and community-based, long-term services and supports (LTSS) continues to grow, resulting in increased demand for these services. The goal is to help people live in the community independently, yet many barriers to offering HCBS still exist. This briefing will examine the potential of HCBS to reduce health care costs and improve quality of care. It will explore the intersection of HCBS, the broader health care delivery system and Medicaid, which is the largest payer of LTSS.






Health Insurance Marketplaces in 2016: What to Expect

With the third open enrollment period for health insurance marketplaces launching November 1st, this briefing took a detailed look at what consumers can expect regarding premiums, health plan availability and affordability.






Prescription Drug Costs: Trends and Tradeoffs in the Pipeline from Lab to Market

Innovative drugs have brought about significant progress in treating costly and complex conditions. While there is agreement among many stakeholders that some of these breakthrough drugs have had a positive impact on Americans’ health and life expectancy, increasing prices have also caused some confusion about the methods by which drug prices are determined. The goal of this briefing was to discuss recent prescription drug price trends, as well as demystify the pricing process. It identified contributors to the rising prices of many drugs, including shareholder interests and R&D costs, in addition to explaining possible future pricing-related challenges for manufacturers, providers, and consumers.






The Intersection of Health and Housing: Opportunities and Challenges

This briefing, the first in a three-part series exploring the intersection of health and social policy, focused on Medicaid and housing policy. What does evidence say about the relationship between stable housing and health outcomes for various populations? What financial impact can housing have on Medicaid costs, and what potential role can Medicaid play regarding housing policy? What funding sources are state and local officials currently leveraging to provide housing resources? Are there barriers to innovative health and housing approaches?






Empowering the Consumer as the Ultimate Health Care Stakeholder

This briefing, the second in a three-part series on the role of consumers and patients in our health care system, discussed the role of consumers in today’s health care coverage market, exploring questions such as: How is the evolving insurance marketplace affecting the choices consumers have when selecting a health plan, whether through a health insurance exchange, employer, or other mechanism? What information do consumers need to select a plan that is right for them? Are consumers well informed regarding health insurance matters, and do they know how to make use of their coverage once they have it?






The ACA: Experiences in Health Care Coverage and Access

In advance of the third open enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, this briefing examined coverage trends, who has gained coverage and who remains uninsured, and why those uninsured individuals have not obtained coverage.






The Evolving Coverage Landscape for Small Businesses: Opportunities and Challenges

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created new health insurance marketplaces for small businesses, known as Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplaces, and made substantial changes to the regulation of health insurance for small businesses. For purposes of health insurance regulation, small businesses have traditionally been defined by states as businesses with up to 50 employees. The ACA defined the small group market as employers with 1-100 employees, while allowing states to limit small group participation to employers with 50 or fewer workers from 2014 through 2016. Every state chose to do so, but, for plan years beginning in 2016, the definition of small business is set to expand to include those with 100 or fewer employees—with potentially significant consequences for the small group health insurance market and the SHOP marketplaces.






Reporter Briefing: Small Business Health Coverage Changes in 2016- Opportunities and Challenge

Join us for a special breakfast for reporters to address major changes set to take place for small businesses and health coverage in 2016, and proposals to delay or reconsider those changes. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created new health insurance marketplaces for small businesses, known as Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplaces, and made substantial changes to the regulation of health insurance for small businesses. For plan years beginning in 2016, the definition of a small business is set to expand from up to 50 employees to up to 100 employees—with potentially significant consequences for the small group health insurance market and the SHOP marketplaces.






King v. Burwell: The Facts and Implications

This briefing told you what you need to know about a major Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Court is expected to make a decision in June, and a ruling for the King petitioners could mean that individuals will no longer be able to receive subsidies to purchase health insurance through the federal marketplace. The federal government is operating insurance marketplaces in more than 30 states. Currently, subsidies to buy health insurance are available to individuals with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (i.e., those with annual incomes between $11,770 and $47,080).






Biosimilars in the U.S.: Current & Emerging Issues

With Congress focused intently on the discovery, development, and delivery pipeline for innovative drugs and devices – and in the wake of the first-ever U.S. approval of a biosimilar medication– key policy and regulatory questions are being actively debated, with important implications for industry, patients, and the health care system






Issues and Future Directions for Medicare

Per capita spending growth in Medicare has slowed over the last few years, although economists disagree about whether that trend will continue. Meanwhile, the number of Medicare beneficiaries continues to increase. Medicare has made systematic changes over the course of its first 50 years, addressing everything from benefits and eligibility to quality of care measurement and provider payment.






21st Century Cures: Can Congress Come Together?

Join us for a special breakfast for reporters, where former FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach will give you the latest on the fast-moving 21st Century Cures legislation. Karen Riley, deputy director of strategy at the FDA’s Office of External Affairs, will also be available to answer questions. The briefing comes just a week after the House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled bipartisan draft legislation. The committee may begin voting on the measure as early as next week.






Improving Health Care Delivery: Innovation in the Private and Public Sectors

This event examined innovative efforts in both the private and public sectors to move toward a health system that is more patient-centered, cost-efficient and delivers better outcomes. It will address efforts underway at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and other federal agencies to spur innovation and prioritize a shift toward higher quality care, as well as the progress made by the private sector in improving quality and reducing costs through innovation.






Health Care Costs: What You Need to Know

The briefing explored the trends in health care costs in both the public and private sectors. It explained recent moderate growth rates, along with possible reasons and prospects for the future. This session was especially helpful to congressional staff members new to the issue, but also served as a useful review for anyone working on health care policy.






Medicare 101: What You Need to Know

Medicare provides health insurance coverage to 54 million people aged 65 and over and younger people with permanent disabilities. In 2013, Medicare spending accounted for 14 percent of the federal budget. This session was especially helpful to congressional staff members new to the issue and a useful review and update for staff working on a broad range of Medicare issues. This Medicare 101 answered basic questions, such as: What services does Medicare provide, and how does Medicare pay for these services? How is Medicare financed? What changes did the Affordable Care Act (ACA) make to Medicare? How fast is Medicare spending growing? What are current proposals to strengthen Medicare for the future, and what are prospects for action in the new Congress?






Medicaid 101: What You Need to Know

With some states grappling over whether to expand Medicaid, and Congress facing big decisions about the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), this briefing reviewed the basics about both programs and discuss current issues.






Chronic Care Management: Is Medicare Advantage Leading the Way?

Efforts are underway throughout the Medicare program to better manage beneficiaries’ chronic conditions, with the goal of improving quality and lowering the costs of care. With an estimated 31 million Medicare beneficiaries suffering from a chronic condition such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and cancer, many still do not receive the coordinated services they need to manage their chronic conditions, and beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions incur higher-than-average spending. However, traditional fee-for-service Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and newer models such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) differ in the tools and methods available to manage chronic care.






ACA 101: What You Need to Know

This session was especially helpful to congressional staff members new to the issue, but is also a useful review for anyone dealing with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The briefing took place just as the second marketplace enrollment period ended and the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging the law’s subsidies.






Preparing the Nursing Workforce for a Changing Health System: The Role of Graduate Nursing Education

The nursing profession, with nearly 3 million licensed and practicing nurses in the U.S., comprises the largest segment of the nation’s health care workforce. There is consensus among experts that nursing education should be modernized to train a greater percentage of nurses at the graduate level and provide the skills nurses need as today’s health care delivery system continues to evolve towards more team-based, data-driven, and coordinated care. What does the nursing workforce look like now, and how does it need to change to meet current and future health needs in the U.S.? How are nursing education and training currently financed? What is the role of federal policy in training a 21st century nursing workforce? How does the nursing workforce fit into today’s primary care workforce and the evolving health care delivery system?






Between Two Worlds: Adolescents and Our Health Care System

Adolescence is a time of physical, emotional, and cognitive transition between the worlds of childhood and adulthood. This time can include the onset of chronic conditions such as obesity, hypertension, and schizophrenia, yet teens may have difficulty accessing appropriate care for their physical and mental health needs. Emerging models around the country may be improving adolescents’ access to appropriate care, but the evidence suggests many needs are not being met.






Digital Health Innovations: Engaging the Patient and Transforming Health Care Delivery

Digital health technologies, particularly those designed to engage and empower patients, have the potential to address unmet health needs and deliver care in new, lower-cost ways. Information shared from electronic health records, the “cloud” and apps can help clinicians target conditions, measure and monitor patient outcomes, personalize treatments, and engage patients in their care. This briefing will examine innovative uses of digital health technology to engage patients and deliver care, with particular focus on high cost, high need patients.






Medicare Advantage in a Changing Health System

Almost three in ten Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, which offers a choice of competing private health plans – typically managed care plans such as HMOs and PPOs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made significant changes to the way Medicare Advantage plans are paid, including tying a portion of payments to a quality star rating system. Despite predictions that MA enrollment would drop in the wake of scheduled payment reductions to the program, the percentage of seniors who are choosing to enroll in MA plans is still growing. However, the impact of upcoming reductions remains the subject of much debate.






ACA Enrollment Round II: Do Consumers Have the Help they Need?

The Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period runs through mid February, and millions of people are already looking for help to find the best insurance fit. While many who signed up last year are expected to shop around for different health plans, millions more may become first time buyers. This briefing will explore the availability and usefulness of in-person assistance programs (navigators, assisters and brokers) that are intended to help individuals search and apply for coverage. After last year’s enrollment difficulties, we will look at the challenges of this second round, with a particular focus on the help available to consumers.






Webinar- Regulating Network Adequacy: The New NAIC Model

With the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period this week, millions of people are again expected to flood marketplace websites to enroll or reenroll in health plans. At the same time, insurance commissioners are announcing draft regulations to help their states respond to an issue that was the subject of major controversy during the first round of enrollment: Some of the new health plans are offering consumers networks that exclude certain doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. Some claim that these networks hamper provider access and choice; others contend that this approach, if done the right way, helps consumers by creating competition and controlling costs, without compromising the quality of care. The November 19 webinar will explain new draft regulations from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. What are states already doing and must they adopt these regulations? How would this regulatory approach affect consumer costs and access to medical providers? How does it handle tiered networks? What is the effect on consumers, providers and health plans? Will there also be federal standards for health plan networks?






Curbing The Ebola Outbreak: Are We on the Right Track?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared a public health emergency due to the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which has accounted for over 13,000 reported cases and 4,800 deaths. Some imported and locally acquired cases in health care workers have also been reported in the United States. As a result, concerns about the further escalation of this epidemic and how to best prepare for and contain this deadly disease exist in both the U.S. and abroad.






Health Insurance Marketplaces, Round II: Results and Expectations

One day after this briefing, on November 15, the second open enrollment period begins for health plans sold in federal and state marketplaces. More than 7 million people who bought insurance for 2014 can shop around for new plans or stay where they are. Those who received federal subsidies will face a redetermination process to assess their current income and other eligibility factors. Experts estimate there may be millions of new enrollees.






21st Century Cancer Care: Will New Models Lead to Better Care at Lower Cost?

The United States spends more than $125 billion annually on cancer care. By 2022, there will be 18 million people with cancer and by 2030 cancer incidence is expected to rise by 2.3 million new cases per year. The high cost of cancer drugs and the “buy and bill” model of paying for them under Medicare have received significant attention. But other factors, such as highly-variable practice patterns and a lack of meaningful engagement of patients in care decisions, have also been called into question.






Incentives 2.0: Is Paying for Performance Enough?

Every day, health care professionals make complex decisions that directly affect the cost and quality of care. Increasingly, both private and public payers are implementing payment reforms to motivate quality improvement, reward providers for delivering high quality care, and, in some cases, impose penalties for sub-par performance, while bipartisan policy proposals to reform Medicare physician payment would modify existing provider incentive programs.






Prescription Opioid Abuse: Fighting Back on Many Fronts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the United States. In 2010, opioid pain relievers accounted for approximately 17,000 of overdose deaths— more than twice the number of deaths from cocaine and heroin combined. Despite the tremendous importance of prescription drugs in treating pain, some medications have a high risk of being misused or abused. Some researchers have voiced concerns that prescription painkillers could even be a gateway drug for heroin users. With the steady rise in prescription rates and drug overdose deaths, policymakers are coming to a consensus that this national problem must be addressed.






Network Adequacy: Seeking Balance

Some new health plans sold in the insurance marketplaces are offering consumers networks that exclude certain doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. While some claim that these networks hamper provider access and choice, others contend that this approach, if done the right way, helps consumers by creating competition and controlling costs.






Reporter Briefing: What’s Next for Obamacare?

The Association of Health Care Journalists’ Washington, DC Chapter and the Alliance for Health reform invite you to a discussion about how journalists can get ready for Round 2 of marketplace enrollment and uncover the next big issues related to the Affordable Care Act.






Network Adequacy Briefing for Reporters

Network adequacy experts will meet with reporters Wednesday, August 6 to provide the latest on the subject, including details about model regulations that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners plans to release in November.






Navigating the Health Insurance Landscape: What’s Next For Navigators, In-Person Assisters and Brokers?

Approximately 10.6 million people were aided by more than 4,400 in-person assistance programs in searching and applying for coverage in the first six-month enrollment period. Brokers also played a role in helping consumers sign up for coverage. Some believe that in-person, enrollment assistance programs are key to future enrollment success, while others voice concerns about the training of those offering assistance, and the security of applicants’ personal information. Many questions arise about their effect on coverage moving forward and the funding required to support the programs.






Health Care Behind Bars: A Key to Population Health?

This briefing explored innovations and challenges in delivering health care to a growing population of inmates, and also the prospect of health care in the correctional setting as a key to improving population health. This is an expensive group because of the large number of people with mental illness, addiction disorders, conditions associated with aging and Hepatitis C. Indeed, corrections spending is the second fastest-growing state expenditure, behind Medicaid, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.






Disclosure and Apology: A Win-Win for Patient Safety and Medical Liability?

Policymakers, providers, and stakeholders have been debating various approaches to reforming our medical liability system to both protect patients who experience adverse medical events and to help practitioners provide the highest quality care possible. One innovative approach may well avoid some of the sharper policy differences on proposals in this area: encouraging the disclosure of unanticipated outcomes to affected patients. This disclosure may include an explanation and apology to the patient and family, as well as an offer of compensation in some cases. Some anecdotal data suggest that such communication-and-resolution programs can result in improved patient safety and decreased malpractice claims. However, questions arise about how well this approach really works, and whether it can be standardized and scaled up in our medical system.






Network Adequacy: Balancing Cost, Access and Quality

Some new health plans sold in the insurance marketplaces are offering consumers networks that exclude certain doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. While some claim that these networks hamper provider access and choice, others contend that this approach, if done the right way, helps consumers by creating competition and controlling costs.






Children’s Health Coverage: What You Need To Know

Approximately 8 million children with low to moderate incomes are covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and 39 million children are covered under Medicaid. (Most children who have coverage have private coverage). The number of uninsured children has decreased by half since the enactment of CHIP in 1997; however, with a new coverage landscape and CHIP funding set to expire in October 2015, questions arise about the current state and future of children’s health care coverage.






Health Insurance Marketplaces in 2014: Behind the Numbers

With the first open enrollment period for health insurance marketplaces now completed, an estimated 8 million people have enrolled in new private health insurance plans, with millions more newly enrolled in Medicaid. This briefing will look behind the enrollment numbers to take a detailed look at the demographics of marketplace enrollees, initial consumer experiences with health plans and lessons for next year’s open enrollment period.






Rates of Change: Putting 2015 Insurance Premiums into Context

Health insurance premiums have been one of the most closely-watched features of the new health insurance marketplaces. In 2014, insurers set rates based on limited data about who would sign up for coverage. Round II of open enrollment is fast approaching, allowing little time to process the first year’s data and to prepare for tomorrow. For 2015, some analysts anticipate increases of 10 percent or less, while others forecast growth of 20 percent or more.






Patient-Centered Medical Homes: The Promise and The Reality

While the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model has increasingly been embraced by providers and payers as a way to improve health care and lower costs, many questions remain about its effectiveness. Definitions of medical homes vary, but they are generally known as a model that aims to transform primary care through increased coordination and communication among a team of providers. Recent medical home initiatives have encouraged primary care practices to invest in capabilities such as patient registries and electronic health records, and to achieve medical home recognition. Health plans offer to pay more to the practices that achieve recognition.






Health Centers at the Launch of the Coverage Expansion

The coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act brings new pressures and opportunities for health centers, including the potential to serve newly-insured patients while continuing as a cornerstone of the primary care safety net for the uninsured. At the same time, health centers are in the midst of rapid transformation brought about in part by recent federal investments in health center capacity and delivery system improvements, even as they face uncertainty about future state and federal funding.






State Medicaid Expansion: The Third Way

To date, about half of states have moved forward with the Affordable Care Act’s optional Medicaid expansion. Now, additional states are pursuing an altogether different path that would allow them to use federal Medicaid funds to help low-income residents buy private coverage. Arkansas, Michigan and Iowa have already received federal Medicaid waivers and launched programs. Others are in various stages of drafting and negotiating. A few are considering block grants.






Is the Mind Part of the Body? The Challenge of Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care in a Reform Era

As more people gain coverage that includes behavioral health benefits, and given a limited supply of mental health professionals, analysts and advocates are raising concerns over how and whether new laws and regulations will be able to change that situation. One option being explored in many settings is the integration of behavioral health services with primary care. There is early evidence that coordinating care in this manner may deliver high-quality care more efficiently.






What’s Preventing Prevention?

Preventive services were a priority in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which required that a set of services be available to consumers with no cost sharing. This has improved access for some people to some services. But persistent barriers for consumers are limiting the utilization of preventive services. These barriers include the variability of insurance coverage, the affordability of out-of-pocket costs, the challenges of education and outreach, and the funding of public health initiatives.






Beyond the SGR: Alternative Models

Congress is as close as it has ever been to scrapping the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) for an alternative system of paying doctors based on the quality – rather than the quantity – of services.






Healthier and Wealthier, or Sicker and Poorer? Prospects for Medicare Beneficiaries Now and in the Future

Although Medicare reform is not currently a front-burner issue, proposals to reduce Medicare spending appear regularly on the policy agenda. Various Medicare savings proposals have recently emerged in the context of efforts to control the national deficit and debt, and could arise in the next few months when Congress considers how to modify Medicare’s physician payment policy to avoid a precipitous reduction in physician fees. The recently passed bipartisan budget deal delayed a reduction in Medicare payments to physicians until April, and any effort to permanently replace the existing system by which Medicare pays physicians will be costly.






Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the ACA Era

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains several provisions that address access to community based services for the 4.5 million people in the U.S. with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Many of these provisions are aimed at balancing the array of services between those offered in institutions and those in the community.






Tackling Health Care Costs: Finding Common Ground

Despite slower health care spending growth over the last few years, long-term forecasts for overall health spending – and for public programs like Medicare – signal continuing concern. The idea behind numerous recent proposals is to find lasting solutions, and some areas of consensus are beginning to emerge.






Health Insurance Marketplaces: The First 8 Weeks

Health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, opened October 1, and while states have released some enrollment data, and much of the attention has been on the initial technical challenges, there has been less information about overall consumer experience.






Reference Pricing: Will Price Caps Help Contain Healthcare Costs?

Many employers have begun to adopt a strategy known as “reference pricing” to help reduce health care costs. Under this benefit design, employees get insurance plans that set price caps on certain services and procedures. Enrollees are allowed to use any provider. But if they use providers with fees higher than the “reference price,” they must pay the difference between the reference price limit, determined by the employer or insurer, and the actual charge.






Quality Care: Getting More Bang for the Buck?

Health care policy leaders are counting on public and private initiatives, such as paying for performance, to improve value in the health care equation in which cost and quality at times seem to be at odds.






Pioneer ACOs: Lessons Learned from Participants and Dropouts

More than a third of Pioneer ACOs succeeded in reducing costs in Medicare in their first year, according to a recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report. The program initially saved Medicare about $87 million and cut Medicare spending by 0.5 percent.






Telehealth and Telemedicine: Adopting New Tools of the Trade

With millions of people projected to obtain health insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), access to care is expected to be an issue. Efforts to promote telehealth and telemedicine could help.






Public Health Preparedness: Are We Ready for Disaster?

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent anthrax assaults, the federal government began to reevaluate the nation’s preparedness for public health emergencies. Since then, the nation has been hit by massive floods, hurricanes and other disasters, and last year Hurricane Sandy swept up the east coast, crippling several states and nearly exhausting emergency services. Despite the continued need for a strong emergency response infrastructure to combat natural disasters, reemerging diseases, pandemics and food-borne illnesses, state health department budgets have been shrinking.






“Rate Shock” — Or Not?

This Alliance for Health Reform webinar gave you the latest on what insurance rates will look like when state insurance exchanges open for enrollment on October 1.






Health Insurance Marketplaces: Different Strokes for Different States

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) sets October 1, 2013 as opening day for enrollment in health insurance plans through marketplaces, or exchanges. The law allowed states to choose between running their own exchanges or having the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) run a federally facilitated exchange.






Rural Reality: More Coverage, Enough Care?

Sixty-two million Americans live in rural areas and they have higher rates of mortality, disability and chronic disease than their urban counterparts. With high poverty and unemployment rates, low rates of health insurance coverage and an undersupply of health care providers, the ills of the health care system are especially notable in rural communities. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains provisions relating to access to care, coverage and delivery system reform. But the impact of these provisions is uncertain in rural America, with its unique challenges.






Streamlining Cost Sharing in Medicare: The Impact on Beneficiaries.

Recent proposals to combine the two main parts of Medicare would mean streamlining deductibles and other cost-sharing for beneficiaries. But health care policy experts are cautioning that such a change is complicated and requires analysis. A July 22 briefing explored the impact on beneficiaries.






Chronic Disease Prevention: Saving Lives, Saving Money

With a continued focus on the need to control the high and rising cost of care, Congress is looking for low cost, high yield policy solutions. Chronic illnesses are among the biggest drivers of growing health care costs, and a drain on worker productivity in our nation. For example, researchers note that per person health care spending for obese adults is 56 percent higher than for normal-weight adults. Diabetes and other chronic illnesses can be prevented or greatly delayed with solutions beyond or outside of medical care. Many fall into the category of health-related behaviors, such as whether we smoke, get exercise, eat a healthy diet– factors that are newly falling into the spheres of public health or population health.






Shifting Challenges: Mental Health in the ACA Era

Provisions of the 2010 health reform law, combined with mental health parity legislation, promise to make mental health care available to millions more Americans in 2014 through both private insurance and Medicaid. But, the sweeping changes that these laws make to financing for mental health care will require states, mental health providers, private insurers and patients to make major adjustments. As more people gain coverage, mental health experts fear that access to care could become an issue, and members of Congress already are introducing legislation to address this concern.






State Health Law Implementation: Race to the Starting Line – Philadelphia

The Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Alliance for Health Reform on Tuesday, June 18 held a special event to explore the challenges that Pennsylvania and New Jersey face this year leading up to the 2014 health law changes. This year the giant health law begins to move into its most climactic phase. Tens of millions of people are about to get health insurance, and this meeting will help reporters understand the epic challenges ahead.