U.S. should model its health care after Iowa

By Sara Imhof -- Guest ColumnCedar Rapids Gazette (Page A4)July 27, 2009

The debate over much-needed health care reform has reached a fever pitch in our nation’s capital. This attention is justified given health care in America consumes nearly 17 percent of our economy, an annual cost of $2.5 trillion.

Rising health-care costs are a primary source of current and projected long-term imbalances between revenues and spending within federal and state budgets. Increasing costs in the coming decades associated with population aging are projected to place Medicare and Medicaid on an unsustainable path that could bankrupt the nation if left unchecked.

With an issue this important to our nation’s economic future, leaders should look to models around the country with a proven record of success. Washington policymakers should turn their attention to Iowa leaders.

The state of Iowa has consistently received national recognition for providing low-cost, high-quality health care — ranked No. 2 in the country among states by The Commonwealth Fund — and can provide valuable lessons worth replicating on a national scale.

The Iowa Committee for Value in Healthcare was formed to use knowledge from the state’s health-care experts to inform the national discussion. The committee is a blend of Iowa health-care providers, purchasers, payers, patient advocates and policy analysts. The Iowa committee has five principles for ensuring increased value in any federal reform effort:

  • Fiscal sustainability — Curtailing rapid health-care cost growth to ensure a system that is sustainable
  • Innovation through collaboration — Achieving high levels of formal and informal collaborations among all healthcare stakeholders
  • Primary care transformation — Elevating the role and use of primary care and more effectively coordinating with specialty care services
  • Societal commitment to prevention and wellness — Must be included in governmental and business policy reform
  • Engaged and responsible health-care consumers — Encourage and set expectations for a more active role for the consumer

Sufficiently transforming our system in a fiscally sustainable way that provides high-value care to all Americans is not likely if lawmakers ignore principles as fundamental as these.

Sara Imhof of Coralville serves as the Midwest regional director and health policy analyst for The Concord Coalition and is a member of the Iowa Committee for Value in Healthcare. The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating the public about federal budget issues and their consequences.