With health-care cost increases at their highest rates in a decade and funding for public insurance programs in crisis, many people feel the current health system can no longer be sustained. If so, what kind of health system should we be creating in Washington state and how should it be financed?
These issues and others will be explored on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the 2002 Washington Health Legislative Conference at the Hilton Airport Hotel in SeaTac. Now in its 17th year, it is the largest health policy conference in the region, drawing more than 500 participants. The theme for the conference is “Alternative Futures – Seeking Direction for the Health System.” After the morning debate about the future of Washington’s health system, afternoon panel sessions will feature more than 20 experts discussing topics including:
- Reinventing Medicaid – Knowledgeable insiders, including the director of Washington’s Medical Assistance Administration, will discuss near-term and long-term state strategies to cut Medicaid expenditures but protect low-income families in light of the state’s fiscal crisis.
- The Premera Conversion – Consumer advocates, including Consumers Union attorneys advising on conversions in Washington and other states, and health care industry stakeholders will discuss the issues surrounding Premera’s proposed conversion to for-profit status.
- Public Health and Bioterrorism – Was 9-11 a boon or a bust for public health? Funding for bioterrorism preparedness is flowing into public health agencies just as funding for their basic functions is being cut. Public health officials from across the state and a member of the National Advisory Council on Public Health Preparedness discuss these potentially opposing forces.
- Workforce Shortages – Using the nursing shortage as an example, health system researchers and leaders will drill down into the causes of health professional shortages and what can be done about them.
A detailed agenda is available on the Health Policy Analysis Program’s Web site at http://www.hpap.washington.edu.
In the morning plenary session, local advocates for three very different health systems — government-run, market-driven, and the “social determinants of health” approaches — will present their proposals for a better health system for Washington. The speakers will address a uniform set of questions developed by the conference presenter, the Health Policy Analysis Program at the UW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine. The three-hour morning session will be moderated by Judith Moore, co-director for the National Health Policy Forum at George Washington University.
- Advocating for the government-run system will be Dr. Peter McGough, speaking as a representative of Health Care for All – Washington, formerly known as Health Care 2000. This group is spearheading the movement to replace the current employer-based health insurance system with a publicly financed, universal health care system.
- The market-driven approach will be presented by Larry Chapman of Summex Corporation. Chapman has written 13 books on health promotion and consults with businesses, government agencies, and the military on managing health care costs.
- The social determinants approach will be presented by Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, a senior lecturer in the UW School of Public Health and an emergency room physician. Bezruchka is an expert on the income gap and its effect on health in the United States.
The Health Policy Analysis Program, based in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, was established in 1974 to study the issues and public policy measures that affect the health of communities in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. HPAP policy analysts have published reports in a wide range of health policy areas including health care costs, health insurance, managed care, access, and quality of care. HPAP’s reports and briefing papers are available at the program’s Web site.