Taking on health reform’s next great chapter

Health Policy Commission’s visit highlights the challenges ahead, and the Medical School’s work in health care transformation

By Tom Lyons

UMass Medical School

July 01, 2013

Dean Flotte speaks with David Seltz, executive director of the Health Policy Commission, on a recent tour of the Albert Sherman Center. Also pictured are Joyce A. Murphy, executive vice chancellor of Commonwealth Medicine, and Iyah Romm, director of Quality Integration at the Health Policy Commission.

Seven years after Massachusetts passed its landmark law expanding access to health insurance for all, the eyes of the nation are again on the commonwealth as it works to slow the growth of health care costs and improve the quality of patient care.

At a meeting on Wednesday of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission’s (HPC) Advisory Council, Massachusetts health care leaders gathered at UMass Medical School to discuss the next wave of health reform in the commonwealth.

Immediately preceding the meeting, Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medicine, executive deputy chancellor, provost, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of pediatrics, and Joyce A. Murphy, executive vice chancellor of Commonwealth Medicine, led a tour of the Albert Sherman Center for HPC leaders, commissioners and staff, including HPC Executive Director David Seltz.

“The tour and the meeting offered a wonderful opportunity to highlight the innovative work of the medical school in several important areas that are priorities for the HPC,” said Murphy, who opened yesterday’s meeting.

“Whether it is the school’s focus on transforming medical education by strengthening team-based care, or reducing medical errors through state-of-the-art clinical simulation, or the work we are doing at Commonwealth Medicine to promote service delivery transformation and Patient-Centered Medical Homes, it is gratifying to see how engaged we are with what everyone agrees are necessary steps to building a high-quality, more sustainable health care system in Massachusetts,” she said.

Murphy, an HPC Advisory Council member, also singled out the work of the Center for Health Law and Economics, whose staff has been deeply involved in helping to craft every major piece of health reform legislation in Massachusetts in recent years.

The HPC, a new state agency created in 2012 as part of the commonwealth’s landmark cost containment law, will establish a cost growth benchmark for total health care expenditures in Massachusetts. However, establishing that benchmark, and monitoring cost trends and market performance are just two of many new responsibilities for the HPC. The commission also has the power to initiate cost and market impact reviews that examine the impacts of certain health care transactions on cost, market competitiveness and access to services and quality. The agency will also take the lead in certifying Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations—models of care delivery thought to be central to improving the quality of care patients receive.

The complexity of tackling the cost-quality conundrum, and the mission of the HPC in driving change was apparent at the public meeting held in the Sherman Center lecture hall. View the meeting agenda and presentation here.

The Advisory Council, which provides input to help guide the commission’s work to implement the 2012 cost containment law (commonly referred to as Chapter 224), represents the various parts of the health care ecosystem. The 33-member panel is made up of members from across the spectrum representing patients, providers, hospitals, insurers and others.

“UMass Medical School is an innovation leader and I am grateful to Dean Flotte and Executive Vice Chancellor Murphy for giving the HPC an up-close look at the trailblazing work happening on campus,” said HPC Executive Director David Seltz. “I am also grateful to the members of the council for making our meeting such a success. Their willingness to serve and bring their valuable, diverse perspectives to Chapter 224 implementation enriches all that we do at the HPC.”

Wednesday’s meeting was the second for the advisory council. It previously met in March at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Quarterly meetings are in the works for other parts of the state.