Foundation’s Role in Transforming Health Care in Georgia is Welcomed

By Governor Sonny Perdue 

The transformation of health and health care in Georgia forum is another example of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation leading a thoughtful discussion on one of the most challenging issues that Georgia faces.

Since forming in 1991, the Foundation has earned a reputation for tackling those tough issues with high quality research and analysis. In areas like taxation, education and welfare reform, the Foundation’s impact has been felt, with effective solutions based on a free-market perspective and the principles of limited government. So I’m glad that you’re now focusing on our health care system.

Maintaining personal health, having access to quality health care and paying for health care are concerns that touch every Georgia family. And these issues are on the minds of doctors, hospital administrators, insurers, legislators and governors.

In many ways, American health care is the envy of the world. Our medical science has helped conquer some of history’s deadliest diseases, like polio and smallpox. Almost daily, we learn about miraculous new drugs, devices and surgical methods. We’ve mapped the human genome. We have developed powers of fighting disease and promoting health that are unprecedented in human history.

Yet amid this banquet of knowledge, technology and life-saving potential, many of our citizens are starved for easy, affordable access to basic health care services.

Nine percent of Georgians have spent an entire year uninsured. For those who are insured, health care premiums are rising at double-digit rates. As employers feel the premium pinch, they are shifting more costs to employees, cutting back insurance coverage or even dropping health benefits altogether. Skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums are driving doctors out of practice or leading them to stop providing higher-risk procedures to reduce their exposure to lawsuits.

I could go on describing this crisis in the health care system we all feel in one way or another. But the key point is this: The crisis in our health care system is real. And it is harming real Georgians every day.

And the crisis, I believe, lies more in the system part than in the health care part.

Our medical knowledge, as I said, is a marvel to the world. We know how to prevent, detect or treat – if not cure – more physical and even mental complaints than any other society at any other time anywhere on earth.

Where we have a problem is in consistently connecting the right treatments with the right patients at the right time. And, of course, paying for the quality and level of care that we all want for ourselves and our families.

The state government feels this crisis crunch from several directions. The state of Georgia is both a direct provider of health care and is a consumer of health care services. The state sometimes acts as an insurer and is an employer providing coverage to nearly 100,000 employees, so the state feels this crisis going and coming.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. But there are high-leverage areas that can help us get where we want to go. And there are some basic principles we can follow. That’s why Georgia is joining a number of other states – including our neighbors South Carolina and Florida – in an effort to lead a “grand change” in health care.

I believe we must transform our health care system if we’re to meet the health care needs of Georgia’s citizens. That is exactly the approach that the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is developing along with Newt Gingrich and the Center for Health Transformation.

In his new book, “Saving Lives and Saving Money,” Newt describes his vision of a 21st Century System of Health and Healthcare that is centered on the individual, prevention-focused, knowledge-intense and innovation-rich. Newt makes the case for a market-mediated system that will improve choice and quality while driving down costs.

As we seek to transform our health care system, we must focus on quality and outcomes, on individual responsibility, on using information technology and on patient safety.

    ·       Better quality means collecting outcomes data and driving the system toward improvement based on hard data. It means identifying, in a real-time, our high-cost clients and developing strategies to avoid the health conditions that drive those costs.

    ·       Individual responsibility means involving consumers in health care decision-making and providing incentives for individuals to lead an active, healthy lifestyle.

    ·       Information technology means leveraging the information revolution to create new efficiencies, such as better outcome data collection.

    ·       And we must focus on patient safety to safeguard our citizens and avoid adding unnecessary additional health care costs.

The state cannot do this alone. It will take both public and private efforts to see a real change. We’re already taking the first steps. Next week, representatives of Georgia’s provider community will convene to discuss the future of Medicaid as a system. Cap-Gemini Ernst & Young have offered their assistance to the state to facilitate this discussion. 

It will focus on exploring what is possible: How do we transform the system so that we can achieve better quality and greater access while dealing with our cost constraints and provide greater budget predictability for the state?

Getting there will take the best ideas from around the state, the inspired innovation of our health care community and a lot of hard work.

This commentary by Governor Sonny Perdue is excerpted from his speech at the October 23 Transforming Health and Health Care in Georgia conference sponsored by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and Newt Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.

 © Georgia Public Policy Foundation (October 24, 2003). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.