Cantwell Says Health Care Reform Delivers Cost Savings, Improves Care for Washington State

At Swedish Medical Center forum, says innovation in WA state served as blueprint for national overhaul

SEATTLE, WA – Today at Swedish Medical Center’s 100th Anniversary Symposium, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) detailed measures she championed in the historic health care reform bill which will help control future health care costs while improving access and quality of care.  As the featured participant in a panel discussion on Medicare reform, Cantwell highlighted her Medicare ‘value-index’ payment provision designed to reward Washington and other states that deliver quality health care while controlling costs.  The old Medicare system, which effectively penalized states like Washington because it paid for quantity rather than quality of service, will phase out between 2015 and 2017.  Authored by Cantwell, the provision will end Medicare’s practice of paying more to high-cost states. Ending the unfair reimbursement formula will mean more doctors in Washington will elect to serve Medicare patients, ensuring that nearly 900,000 Washington seniors have improved access to quality care.  Cantwell also discussed other provisions of the new law she authored including a new national Basic Health Plan modeled after Washington state’s Basic Plan and making it easier for seniors to receive long-term care in their homes and communities.  
“Compared to other states, Washington state providers have been delivering quality care at lower cost for years,” Senator Cantwell said. “But Medicare reimbursement models have been skewed, rewarding quantity of services over quality of care, resulting in billions of dollars in wasted spending. My Medicare value-based index fixes this inefficient system by leveling the playing field, and now, for the first time, doctors will be penalized for over-using services.”
Cantwell’s “value-based index” rewards doctors for providing high quality, efficient, and coordinated care. The measure replaces the current system that rewards practitioners for ordering often redundant or unnecessary tests and procedures, contributing to an estimated $120 billion per year in unnecessary spending. The average yearly cost for a Medicare patient in Washington state is $7,100, roughly $1,200 less than the national average. Thirty-four states have higher per-person Medicare costs than Washington.
Cantwell also urged the symposium participants to participate in developing the exact measures of quality that will make up the value index.
“We need you to lend your expertise, based on the innovations and successes achieved in our state under a quality-based model,” Cantwell said. “I look forward to working with you to implement this innovative provision and lead the way in cost reform.”
The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work with experts to develop the value-based index standards this year and next. In 2012, HHS will identify quality and cost measures and make them public. In 2013, the rulemaking process will begin, and in 2015, a selected group of physicians will begin to receive reimbursement under the value-based payment system. In 2017, all physicians will begin to receive reimbursements under the value-based system.
To learn more about Cantwell’s health care reform provisions included in the new law, click here.