The most important elements of the economic stimulus package for health would be investing in health information technology, providing COBRA funding assistance for recently laid-off workers, and allowing unemployed Americans access to a public health insurance program.

In the longer-run, getting to universal coverage while controlling costs and improving quality and efficiency should be the health care reform priorities for President Obama, according to 2 in 3 opinion leaders.

These are the results of the 17th Commonwealth Fund/Modern Healthcare Health Care Opinoin Leaders Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive.

The poll was conducted among 194 health care opinion leaders culled from an initial pool of 1,246 individuals from health care experts culled from Modern Healthcare‘s subscription list.

According to the health opinion leaders, the most effective tactics for managing health costs include:

1. Negotiating prescription drug prices.

2. Increasing the supply of primary care physicians.

3. Bundling payments based on quality instead of funding episodic care.

4. Implementing comparative effectiveness metrics into benefit design, practice and payment.

5. Providing incentives to patient-centered medical homes.

Many of these recommendations are consistent with the Commonwealth Fund’s agenda for a High Performance Health System, published in November 2007.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Universal coverage (or nearly-universal) was an integral component of President Obama’s campaign to change American health care. During this severe economic downturn, it still seems clear that this President sees health reform as part of an economic turnaround in the U.S.

To do so, controlling costs must be part of the strategy to cover more Americans, and to get under-insured people to a better health security. Experts see the most effective tools to to manage costs as a constellation of bolstering primary care and supporting patient-centered medical homes, measuring/funding/rewarding what works in terms of clinical effectiveness, and negotiating drug prices through the Big Buyer, Medicare.

In the short-term (2009-10), a few line items are sure to be addressed: getting kids and the most needy enrolled into Medicaid and existing public programs; getting the unemployed access to insurance; and, laying the groundwork for the larger health reform strategy for 2011-12 and beyond.

For suppliers to the industry, take note: with the high priority that HIT and clinical effectiveness are given, products that prove to be “better” (probably much better) or true breakthroughs are much more likely to be covered than those that have substitutes in the market. What will bring good things to life will go beyond the product itself, and provide wrap-around benefits to using the product: support for managing chronic conditions, support for patients to stay on therapeutic regimens, programs for disease prevention, and collaboration with communities to enhance health literacy that result in improved health outcomes.

In this “Yes We Can” era, we can and must cross party, stakeholder, corporate and historic barriers of, “‘no we can’t” to get to real and sustained health reform for all Americans.

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