HMSA: Backing empowerment, improvement


POSTED: Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We are approaching a crisis point. Unsustainable increases in health care costs threaten the financial security of families and hinder the economic recovery of our nation.

The sheer number and complexity of interacting parts of health care reform make it challenging to answer the question, “;Where does the Hawaii Medical Service Association stand in all of this”;?

We stand on the fundamentals.

HMSA supports access to quality, affordable health care. We support an active and innovative private sector role in health care. We support choice in physicians and health plans. We support government programs that provide access to health care for the most vulnerable in our society. We support accountability and transparency in all sectors of the health care industry. We support outcome-based medicine and best practices in health care. We support consumer empowerment and individual responsibility for health behaviors. And, we support an economically sustainable health care system.

As Hawaii's largest provider of health care coverage, HMSA supports effective and affordable reform. Controlling costs and providing access to quality care have always been our goals, so today's discussions about health care reform are in line with our philosophy and efforts throughout the 70-plus years we've served the people of Hawaii. True reform will happen only with the involvement of everyone in the health care system.

As individuals, we need to take responsibility for our health—eating well, exercising and avoiding risky behaviors.

Health care providers need to make sure they're offering the right care at the right time. That doesn't mean more procedures or tests that simply drive up costs. It means influencing patients to take an active role in managing their health and the delivery of care with measurable results demonstrating that patients are healthier.

The government needs to ensure that it pays its fair share. On average, a family of four with a private health plan pays an additional $1,800 a year to subsidize what Medicare and Medicaid pay physicians and hospitals. These government programs need to pay for the true cost of care.

As a health plan, there is much we can and are doing.

At HMSA, we're reshaping ourselves to support strong relationships between physicians and their patients. This means staying in front of advances in technology, finding ways to encourage and support innovation, and designing payment schedules that recognize and reward positive outcomes.

We need to help people work toward wellness and manage chronic disease by providing relevant, timely health information and then making it easy for our members and their doctors to act on that information.

We also need to help people become better health care consumers, improving health care literacy and providing access to information that doctors and facilities can use.

Whether it's helping physicians succeed in rural communities or through new and innovative programs such as HMSA's Online Care, which enables patients to speak with doctors online or by phone, we need to continually improve the way health care is delivered.

HMSA's operations need to be transparent and collaborative, and must maximize value to our members while offering Hawaii's businesses the best possible pricing for quality health care coverage.

We need to stay involved as an active participant in the push for positive reform and as a resource for our community as we all try to understand how health care reform will impact us. HMSA will continue to provide perspective as health care reform moves forward in our collective search for solutions that work.

Our community and our nation need concerned citizens to help shape health care reform. There is much we can do to learn about the reform proposals, speak with our elected leaders, and work together to improve our system.

Please send your thoughts, concerns and suggestions to us on Twitter @LetsTalkReform.