N.H. making strides in health care

Last modified: Thursday, September 09, 2010
Significant attention has been give to the positive impact of the landmark health care reform passed by Democrats in Congress. In New Hampshire, nearly 20,000 small businesses are eligible for tax credits of up to 35 percent of costs, coverage is being extended to thousands of Granite Staters and seniors hit by the 'doughnut hole' prescription drug coverage gap are receiving rebate checks, all as a result of this reform.

Unfortunately, state-level initiatives have not received the same attention, despite their numerous benefits. Policymakers and stakeholders across New Hampshire are taking significant steps to implement some of the best cost-control and care-delivery initiatives. We are leading the nation, making sure New Hampshire residents get the best services at lower prices.

In 2009, the state's major private insurers and a number of health care providers began a medical home pilot program. This allows primary-care physicians to coordinate treatment for patients, with the patient as a full partner. The concept reduces unnecessary specialist visits, cuts down on duplication of expensive testing, and can lead to better outcomes and improved patient satisfaction. Similar programs in other states indicate the potential to save millions of dollars.

Two other cost-control ideas were enacted by the Legislature this year. The first is a commission charged with examining the financial drivers in our health care system and recommending rate-setting guidelines to reduce costs. The second stops hospitals from charging higher rates to individuals who do not have health insurance.

Doctors can provide better care to patients if they have access to relevant health information. That access will also lead to more efficient delivery of care. The Department of Health and Human Services has been leading a discussion between more than 80 health care professionals, looking for more efficient ways to share essential information privately and securely. This has significant potential to reduce duplication and medical error, eliminate waste and improve care.

New Hampshire is also trying out another potential cost saver: accountable care organizations. The brainchild of New Hampshire's own Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy, accountable care organizations will partner insurers and health care providers to deliver evidence-based health care more efficiently while holding them accountable with new measurements of patient satisfaction. New Hampshire will begin testing accountable care organizations in five communities.

It is important that New Hampshire takes proactive steps to keep all residents from being unable to afford the lifesaving medical care we all deserve. The federal health law was a critical leap forward. The policies being tested and enacted here are continuing the discussion of how we make our health system better and better.

(Rep. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua chairs the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.)