After the successes of Governor Gina Raimondo’s Reinventing Medicaid task force, today, at the Kent County YMCA, she announced a new initiative to overhaul the state’s healthcare system as a whole. Titled the Working Group for Healthcare Innovation, the group, under the leadership of Elizabeth Roberts, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, seeks to improve Rhode Island’s healthcare landscape, making it more competitive with other New England states.
“Today we are talking about keeping a dialogue going that you so successfully started on earlier this year,” Raimondo said, referring to Reinventing Medicaid. She added that she seeks to take the work that was done there, in the public healthcare system, and move it forward.
“Today is about bringing that same level of innovation in all that we do in healthcare delivery in the state of Rhode Island,” she said.
The Governor has set forth four specific goals for the task force to achieve, under specific deadlines. They are to develop a global healthcare spending cap; plan out and implement the “80 by ’18,” goal, which would tie 80 percent of healthcare payments to quality by 2018; bring the state’s healthcare system technologically up to date; and establish a framework to achieve health and wellness goals outlined by the Centers for Disease Control.
Raimondo said that the biggest goal, which all of these are to work together to achieve, is to reduce the costs of healthcare, improve outputs, and improve the patient experience. She said that these goals are the “holy grail,” of providing healthcare, and making Rhode Island more effective overall.
“I believe it’s doable, I know it’s doable. It’s doable if we commit ourselves,” she said. “We’ve got to catch up and we’ve got to be competitive. Rhode Island has to be competitive.”
The focus of the task force will draw from suggestions made by a group of healthcare stakeholders that Governor Raimondo received back in December. Many members of this group, which was put together by United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Rhode Island Foundation President Neil Steinberg, will now be serving with on the new task force.
Whitehouse also spoke in support of Raimondo’s initiative, citing that the United States spends more money per capita in relation to life expectancy than almost every other developed country. The United States’ life expectancy is also lower than many countries that pay less per capita. Whitehouse also mentioned that since 1960, health care expenditures have risen from $27.4 billion to $2.8 trillion. Healthcare spending has declined in recent years, but reducing costs remains a priority.
“It’s not a system where you can tell it what to do and it’s going to change,” Whitehouse said, speaking about how healthcare reform works. “You actually need to change the system. What you say is a whisper, how you pay is a shout.”
Secretary Roberts, who will head the group, said that even though healthcare reform is a very complex issue, the working group can find a solution because they want to get the community involved in the process. Rather than just having a conversation about what needs to be done, Roberts said, there will be collaboration on both ends of the project. By doing this, they will create a long-term plan.
“I am excited to see the Governor take a very direct interest, and give us a very direct charge, because that, to me, is absolutely crucial to a statewide approach,” Roberts said about her enthusiasm to begin working. “I am excited to see the range of people who have stepped forward to participate, and know that we will make some real progress.”
Roberts has had experience working with the Rhode Island healthcare industry in the past, as former Lieutenant Governor during the Chafee Administration. Roberts has also worked in health insurance before she was involved in government, and as a legislator, she chaired the Health Committee.
“Many of us have met before, and have worked together before,” she said. “But the charge of the Governor, to really come together, and really make some measurable differences, is going to move us forward.”
The Working Group for Healthcare Innovation will begin meeting in August, and give its first set of recommendations to Governor Raimondo in December. Members of the group come from several communities, including government, insurance, hospital workers, labor, and business. There are 36 total members.