Thursday, July 28, 2016

OHCA hears more from community about harm from YNHH-L&M deal

Monday OHCA got another earful from community members, providers and experts as they continued the public hearing on Yale-New Haven’s application to acquire L&M hospital and medical group. Intervenors, including the CT Health Policy Project, continued our testimony about likely price increases and loss of services in the New London community if the deal is approved. Intervenors and OHCA asked again for price data from previous YNHH acquisitions as well as the ongoing Community Health Needs Assessment, required by the Affordable Care Act, and what identified needs the hospital has acted on.  Intervenors also told powerful stories of lost services in Windham when Hartford Hospital bought their community hospital and that L&M clinical services are already well integrated with YNHH independent of the corporate acquisition. YNHH cited, among other reasons, Medicaid cuts as a reason to merge, but were reminded of CT’s relatively generous provider rates and that CT has maintained provider rate increases even after federal funding ended, despite severe budget deficits that will result in thousands of working parents losing HUSKY this weekend.

Monday, July 18, 2016

ICER seeks input on value asssessment methodology update

There is a growing concern that untested new treatments and drugs are driving up the cost of health care. Consumers and payers don’t have enough trusted sources to evaluate the value of costly, new interventions – whether they are worth what they charge. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Research (ICER), a leading and trusted source for that information, is updating the methods they use to develop value reports. ICER’s Value Assessment Framework is based on almost ten years of experience working with all stakeholders across the health care system. The framework involves a deep dive into the comparative clinical effectiveness and comparative value of interventions. The research is then thoroughly vetted publicly through regional committees of clinicians, researchers, patient and consumer advocates. ICER works with all health care stakeholders to inform their independent assessments, which are increasingly helping payers, policymakers and consumers in maximizing the value of our scarce health care dollars. As part of their ongoing commitment to developing independent and useful assessments to enhance public dialogue about value, ICER is updating their methodology. As part of that update, ICER is soliciting comments and suggested improvements. Comments can be sent to by September 12th. To help understand the framework and how it is used, ICER is hosting a webinar July 29th from 1 to 2pm. Register here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

CT second lowest in US in premature deaths, but also among most costly states

Second only to New Hampshire among states, Connecticut residents are avoiding premature deaths preventable with better health care. However, no Connecticut community ranked in the top 10% across health indicators in the Commonwealth Fund’s 2016 Local Health System Scorecard. While we do very well in Healthy Lives measures, we have a great deal of work to do in Avoidable Hospital use. Medicare readmission rates are high in all three noted hospital referral regions – Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven. Hartford and New Haven area residents also face higher rates of avoidable ED and hospital admissions. Health care costs per person are among the highest in the nation, especially for employer-sponsored coverage. There is wide variation within states across the report’s 36 health care indicators of quality, access, avoidable hospital use, costs and outcomes. Overall the report found almost all localities in the US are making progress improving health but very slowly. New policies are making a difference including Affordable Care Act coverage expansions, Medicare’s hospital readmission and quality reporting initiatives, and FDA regulations and protections. Generally low-income areas perform more poorly but the report includes important lessons. Investments in public health are making a difference including school-based care, social service collaborations, workforce training, data, and connecting people to coverage and medical homes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Health Care Cabinet starts work on recommendations for reform

Yesterday the Health Care Cabinet gave consultants initial feedback on their “straw man” recommendations to improve health care and control costs in CT. The Cabinet has spent the last several months exploring leading state reforms preparing for our December report to the General Assembly. Members expressed concerns about the proposed consolidation of all state health agencies into a single agency and creating another new agency for health policy planning. Members suggested less complicated and less costly ways to achieve the same goals of coordinating activities and analyzing data. Deep concerns were voiced about a return to capitated financial risk for Medicaid. Since leaving capitation four years ago, CT Medicaid has improved the quality of care, engaged significantly more providers, and reduced per person costs -- by 5.9% just last year. Concerns were also raised about an 1115 waiver, which has been a tool for increased resources but also to reduce care in other states. It’s important to decide on goals first, before jumping to a risky and controversial strategy. A proposal to join Medicaid and state employee plan purchasing has failed several times in the past. While the goal of reducing market concentration is a good one, the recommendation needs to be much stronger. There was strong support for using data and evidence in health planning. Dozens of good ideas that will be necessary to any successful reform were missing from the list and efforts beyond state government were not recognized in the report. Advocates will be providing the Cabinet with feedback and alternatives to the recommendations. One thing the consultants got very right was the main challenge to reform in CT – “Lack of trust among key stakeholders.” It was suggested that we start with smaller, more realistic steps (we can afford) that give early successes and build trust. The next meeting will be August 9th.

Community voices fears about proposed YNHH acquisition of L&M

OHCA’s public hearing about Yale-New Haven Health System’s plans to buy Lawrence & Memorial Monday in New London ran over 6 hours and had to be continued to later this month to finish. Public comment was split between those favoring the deal and others with concerns. A coalition of community groups, labor and consumer advocates, including the CT Health Policy Project, have been certified as intervenors. We are concerned that the deal will cement CT’s anti-competitive hospital/health system market driving up prices, lowering access to care, reducing consumer choice and undermining efforts to improve quality and value. The applicants have suggested that they will invest $300 million in the New London region, but won’t say how or where the money will come from, and they will make those decisions behind closed doors after the deal is done. Intervenors urged YNHH to use the transparent Community Health Needs Assessment process, required by the ACA, to develop a plan for that funding in partnership with the New London community. Research finds that monopolies drive up health care prices more than 15% – CT prices are already too high, and the state budget is too tight to withstand this.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Medicaid update – HUSKY parents’ time running out, home health and dental get different cuts, autism services moving

Friday’s Medicaid Council touched on several critical issues. We got an update, of sorts, on the fate of HUSKY parents facing the loss of coverage in three weeks. 20% of the 13,811 at-risk parents have either re-qualified for Medicaid (the large majority) or signed up for an AccessHealthCT plan. 3,877 parents from the original number are already off the program – examples given include no longer having a qualifying child in the household or moving out of state. No detail on any of these numbers was given. However AccessHealthCT is making significant efforts to inform at-risk parents including a link to Statewide Legal Services of CT’s fact sheets in English and Spanish that include full information about options and how to prepare for those who will likely become uninsured.

We also heard about very different decisions on provider rate cuts. Planned 5% dental rate cuts have been reduced to 3% or 2% and will, in part, drive quality by reversing payment for sealants and fillings that failed before they should have. However the proposed rate cut to home health agencies for medication administration will go forward unchanged despite a proposal by the home health providers’ organization that would have filled $13 million of the $14.8 million budget hole. There is an honest disagreement about appropriate levels of care. Concerns were raised that this cut will reduce access to critical services, especially for behavioral health care, and could interfere with progress keeping people in community settings.

We also heard about the promising shift of autism service delivery to DSS and Beacon Health, the behavioral health ASO. Services include behavioral treatment as well as access to peer specialists and care coordinators. DSS and Beacon are working to improve initial assessments and recruit new providers. It is hoped that the shift will expand access to high quality care for people with autism spectrum disorder.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

July CT Health Policy Webquiz: Medicare cost variation

Test your knowledge of Medicare cost variation. Take the July CT Health Policy Webquiz.