Health care access, particularly access to primary care, is on the minds of all who are following health reform efforts in Congress. President Obama has said that expanding access to health care to more Americans is one of the main goals of reform. Democrats and Republicans from both houses agree that any reform plan must increase access. But how can that goal be accomplished, particularly in a time when reducing health care costs and increasing quality are also priorities?
What provisions exist in the health reform proposals that speak directly to expanding access to health care? What types of payment reforms would help? What are the special challenges faced by rural areas? How are these reforms incorporated into Medicare versus the private insurance market? Are we educating enough primary care providers to sustain an increase in access? If not, how can policy changes attract more to that field? What has Massachusetts’ experience been with primary care capacity after their reform efforts? Are things like retail clinics helping to alleviate the shortage?
To address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored an Aug. 10 briefing. Panelists were Susan Dentzer, editor-in-chief, Health Affairs; Nancy Dickey, president, Texas A&M Health Science Center; Deborah Devaux, of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which is implementing a value-based payment system; and Sharon Long, researcher, The Urban Institute, to discuss the Massachusetts experience. Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated.
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