Governors team up for healthcare sustainability, innovation

Heeding healthcare industry calls for payment reform, Govs. John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Bill Haslam of Tennessee will lead the new Health Care Sustainability Task Force to help governors innovate their Medicaid programs and achieve low-cost, high-quality healthcare for their constituents.

Using shared experiences and best practices from states, the task force will focus on federal legislative or regulatory efforts that could help states reform healthcare payment and delivery models to improve care and lower costs, the National Governors Association (NGA) announced Tuesday.

The task force membership includes California Gov. Jerry Brown, whose state has accepted Medicaid expansion and who earlier this year asked the Obama administration for broader leeway to control costs for the Medicaid program--a call for flexibility that was echoed by other governors.

In co-chair Kitzhaber's home state, an experiment to expand Medicaid coverage improved healthcare utilization, but not outcomes, according to a May study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Meanwhile, co-chair Haslam hails from one of the nine Medicaid expansion holdouts, which maintain they can't afford to expand the program.

"Governors are working in their states to find ways to cut costs when it comes to healthcare," Haslam said in a statement. "It is our responsibility to examine every possible option in an effort to make sure promising new initiatives can be fully utilized."

With similar payment reform goals, a recently formed coalition, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, calls for  incentivizing states to help control healthcare costs by allowing states that slow spending growth to share a percentage of Medicare and Medicaid savings.

For more:
- here's the NGA statement