Piloting health reform

The $12 million federal grant announced this week to spread health care information technology on the Western Slope actually comes from the federal stimulus bill approved last year, not from the just-passed health care reform bill. But it is representative of one of the things we like about the health care reform legislation: pilot programs to test potential cost-saving ideas.

The Daily Sentinel did not endorse the recently passed health care bill largely because we share the concerns of many people that it won’t be revenue neutral, but will require a massive increase in federal spending. Medicare’s actuarial experts provided backup for those concerns with a report released late last month on the legislation’s cost.

However, we believe among the important contributions of the bill are the numerous pilot programs designed to test various health care technologies, practices, treatment regimes and other programs. Some have the potential to significantly reduce health care costs in specific areas.

In the case of the grant to local health care entities, the Quality Health Network has already been in place for six years. It is an online patient database that’s designed to reduce duplication of services, limit hospital stays and cut unnecessary emergency room visits. The network is used by a Mesa County physicians group, Rocky Mountain Health plans and local hospitals. It has expanded to serve Montrose and Pitkin counties. The federal grant will allow it to expand to Garfield, Rio Blanco, Delta and Gunnison counties.

The grant will also provide health care authorities an opportunity to assess how well such online systems can be adapted to large geographic areas with relatively small populations. And it should allow them to evaluate how effective the network is in reducing duplicated or unnecessary services, thereby cutting costs.

Credit is due to 3rd District Congressman John Salazar and Sens. Mark Udall and Mike Bennet for securing the grant.


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