Expert: Reform can improve communities

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The much-maligned health care bill provides a huge opportunity for local communities to improve the health of their citizens and for local health care providers to win bonus payments from federal health insurance programs.

That’s the message Len Nichols, a Beltway veteran and health policy expert, will bring to attendees at the “All Healthcare is Local” conference today at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis.

Nichols, a health policy professor at George Mason University, was a veteran of the unsuccessful Clinton health reform effort in 1994. The law signed by President Obama in March is much “smarter,” Nichols said, because, instead of trying to reduce costs bluntly, the law gives incentives and resources for local players to improve the health of their citizens and patients, which will then reduce their need for health care.

“It’s really far better than given credit for,” Nichols said of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Health care spending has been rising at roughly double the rate of inflation for years, squeezing budgets for businesses and governments. Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said in a May 26 presentation that the new health law "does not substantially diminish that pressure." But Nichols argues that the law's incentives will force private players to change their business models in ways that improve health and reduce costs at the same time.

Nichols breaks down the law this way:

Community groups can apply for piles of money set aside by the law to pay for programs to fight obesity or to build sidewalks, walking trails and other neighborhood assets that make it easier to exercise.

Health insurers are forced to accept all comers—instead of turning away the unhealthy as current law encourages them to do—and limits how much more insurers can charge the sick compared with the healthy. Those restrictions, Nichols said, will force insurers to get really good at directing their customers to the best heath care providers and enrolling them in effective wellness programs that reduce their need for health care.

Employers will be able to give larger incentives—tax free—to their workers to participate in wellness programs, meaning health insurers should find a willing base of customers for their wellness efforts.

Doctors and hospitals will be encouraged to team up and find ways to provide better care at lower costs. If they do, a Medicare pilot program is offering to split the savings with them—which could generate a bonus payment for the health care providers. Also, the bill will fund health care innovation zones that local hospitals can set up to try new ways to deliver higher-quality care at lower cost.

Critics question whether this and other pilot programs will expand enough to be meaningful, but Nichols is confident that Congress will do so: that’s because the health bill also commits billions in spending to help pay for health insurance for more than 30 million extra Americans.

“We never promised to cover 35 million Americans before. We never put a gun to our head before,” Nichols said.

Nichols said Wednesday’s conference, organized by Better Healthcare for Indiana, an Indianapolis-based not-for-profit group, is to help employers, hospitals, government leaders and others see how interdependent they are in finding a sustainable solution to runaway health care costs.

“Employers need good hospitals so their employees can get back to work. Hospitals need employers to pay the bills. Economies need health care jobs,” he said.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Really, taking someone managing the regulation of Alcohol and making himthe President of an IVY Tech regional campus. Does he have an education background?

  2. Jan, great rant. Now how about you review the report and offer rebuttal of the memo. This might be more conducive to civil discourse than a wild rant with no supporting facts. Perhaps some links to support your assertions would be helpful

  3. I've lived in Indianapolis my whole and been to the track 3 times. Once for a Brickyard, once last year on a practice day for Indy 500, and once when I was a high school student to pick up trash for community service. In the past 11 years, I would say while the IMS is a great venue, there are some upgrades that would show that it's changing with the times, just like the city is. First, take out the bleachers and put in individual seats. Kentucky Motor Speedway has individual seats and they look cool. Fix up the restrooms. Add wi-fi. Like others have suggested, look at bringing in concerts leading up to events. Don't just stick with the country music genre. Pop music would work well too I believe. This will attract more young celebrities to the Indy 500 like the kind that go to the Kentucky Derby. Work with Indy Go to increase the frequency of the bus route to the track during high end events. That way people have other options than worrying about where to park and paying for parking. Then after all of this, look at getting night lights. I think the aforementioned strategies are more necessary than night racing at this point in time.

  4. Talking about congestion ANYWHERE in Indianapolis is absolutely laughable. Sure you may have to wait in 5 minutes of traffic to travel down BR avenue during *peak* times. But that is absolutely nothing compared to actual big cities. Indy is way too suburban to have actual congestion problems. So please, never bring up "congestion" as an excuse to avoid development in Indianapolis. If anything, we could use a little more.

  5. Oh wait. Never mind.