Amidst budget woes, new study points to savings from comprehensive health care reform


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WA plans could save state and its residents billions while extending coverage to all; similar proposals moving across country

Olympia, WA — At a hearing today of the Washington State Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, the actuarial firm Mathematica Policy Research will present a new study showing that Washington state could cut health care costs from $300 million to $800 million and boost economic activity anywhere between $370 million to $1.6 billion from a range of comprehensive health care reform initiatives proposed last year by state lawmakers.  

Set against the backdrop of devastating budget shortfalls in states and households across the country, the report bolsters the case for national and state health care reform playing a central role in ongoing economic recovery efforts.
According to Adam Thompson, the Senior Health Care Policy Specialist with Progressive States Network, a national network of legislators and advocates promoting progressive state-level policies, “With the economy in the state that it’s in, you hear a lot of people complaining that we can’t afford to do comprehensive health care reform.  What this study clearly shows is that we can’t afford not to.”
Washington is one of a growing number of states looking at comprehensive health care reform as a way to achieve savings and boost economic activity.  In 2007, a study by the Lewin Group found that Healthy Wisconsin, a comprehensive health care plan sponsored by Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach would save the state $13.8 billion in annual health care expenditures.  A similar partnership-style bill, the New York Health Plan, was recently introduced in New York by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and is expected to achieve similar savings.  
While these comprehensive models are drawing increasing attention, they are just one of a host of innovative and cost-saving plans that are moving at the state level.  State activity is helping to show the way for national reform.
“In Washington DC, national health care reform is back on the agenda not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it saves badly needed money,” said Thompson.  “As the federal government moves to mend the broken economy, it must also move to fix the broken health care system.  The states, in turn, must put bold plans in place so that they’re ready once help arrives.”

The Mathematica report is the result of 2008 legislation calling for a study to analyze the comparative savings of five different reform packages.  One plan that fares particularly well in the study is the Washington Health Partnership, which would generate $1.6 billion in new economic activity and save state taxpayers $330 million in spending while reducing employer health care expenditures by $2.35 billion and family out-of-pocket spending by $1.03 billion.  

The Partnership, a proposal by Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee Chair Karen Keiser, would create a public-private purchasing pool in which consumers could choose from a range of providers and private insurance plans - achieving health care for all residents and administrative efficiency while enhancing health care choice.