Eight leaders of state government and corporate health care agree that “true reform” of health care delivery is not only likely but coming, thanks to advances in technology and electronic medical records.
That hopeful message closed a June 13 panel discussion moderated by NIU Board of Trustees Chair Cherilyn Murer.
“I found it very gratifying to see the intensity of the discussion and the seriousness of the discussion,” said Murer, president and CEO of the legal-based health care management consulting firm Murer Consultants, Inc.
“No party – neither the governors nor the corporate representatives – engaged in sound bites or rhetoric. There was real concern and thoughtfulness.”
Panelists included Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn along with the governors of Montana, North Carolina and Vermont. Corporate participants represented AETNA, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Walgreen Co. and Wellcare Illinois.
All were asked to address “Driving Down Cost of Care While Increasing Access for Our Citizens.”
Their dialogue came during the second of three sequential panel discussions during the Regional Policy Conference, presented at the Hotel Allegro in Chicago by the Democratic Governors Association and the Center for Innovative Policy.
The first panel tackled manufacturing while the third focused on job creation.
Murer, who has distinguished herself over the last three decades as an active voice in the advancement of quality, cost-effective health care, called the middle topic critical and timely.
“Health care is at the pinnacle of concern in our country right now. It is one of the overwhelming issues being addressed, and it has been addressed for the past three years. Certainly I anticipate this conversation going on for the next three to five years,” she said.
“We need to address how we are going to provide cost-effective health care to the people as technology advances and the aging population continues to grow,” she added. “There are greater and greater demands on the American health care delivery system. It is important for governors – and, in this case, this panel of health care industry leaders – to have a meeting of the minds.”
At the close of the discussion, Murer asked all of the panelists whether they were “optimistic, guarded or pessimistic as to the reality of implementing a truly reformed health care environment within the next three to seven years.”
Votes for “optimistic” resulted in an 8-0 groundswell of confidence.
“I was very encouraged that all eight participants felt that, although there are many challenges, they remained optimistic that we would see true reform and that technology was really serving as the catalyst of that change,” Murer said.
Those challenges, she added, include “changing the culture, changing behavior, changing attitudes. Those are all extremely difficult and take time.”
Meanwhile, with the nation’s eyes and ears trained on the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s 2010 health care bill, Murer separates that legal issue from the topics of last week’s panel.
Justices are considering matters of access to care, payment systems and reimbursement, she said.
Obama’s “bill did not fully engage in all of the elements of reform of the delivery system – pay for performance, quality measures – of which we are on track and certainly on the right path,” she said.
“Whatever the Supreme Court decides will not stop the momentum of how to optimize the delivery system and how to delivery care at the highest quality and in a most efficient manner. True reform of the delivery system will go on.”
Murer’s firm provides a unique combination of expertise to unravel the complex integration of medical, social, economic, legal and government issues that encompasses health care.
Offering a wide range of consultative services, including the design and development of health facilities, regulatory compliance oversight and reimbursement analysis for all venues of care, the Joliet-based practice has relationships with more than 600 clients in 42 states and a number of foreign nations.
The 1978 alumna of NIU’s College of Law has also co-authored six books on a variety of health care topics.
Despite her broad and deep knowledge and understanding of health care, Murer said she still learns something “every single day – that’s what makes my job exciting.”
Similarly, the invitation to moderate last week’s panel “delighted” her. She was seated at Gov. Quinn’s table for breakfast and again at lunch, when the group was joined by keynote speaker David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama.
“This was a wonderful opportunity,” Murer said. “I have always been concerned with American health care policy, and that was the genesis of this discussion.”