For the past two years, the State of Utah has been engaged in health system reform. If we've learned nothing else about reforming health systems in the past two years, we at least know there is no magic wand and no miracle diet pills that can fix the system. The current state of our health system is like a patient in need of long-term rehabilitation. If we were to list the symptoms of a sick health system, it would read like this: too many Utahns are without health insurance, health costs are rising at unsustainable rates and too many patients fail to receive proper care.
Thankfully our patient is in luck; we have outlined the rehabilitation schedule for our health system using a 1-3-6-10 timeline. In the first year, we laid the foundation for the development and implementation of a strategic plan that would take three years to fully implement. The foundation would address six areas of need with the goal that full implementation of reform is accomplished in 10 years.
We are now entering the third year of the three year development and implementation phase. Five stakeholder groups --doctors, hospitals, insurance, community and business--have helped the legislative task force create reform legislation. During the 2009 Legislative Session, legislation was passed that expanded access to health insurance markets, increased market flexibility and provided greater transparency among several other changes. This year we will be adding a sixth work group, drugs/pharmacy, and encourage all interested citizens to participate in one of the six work groups actively.
This third year of the development and implementation phase will be an exciting time because it will feature more action. As in any major project, it is best to start by gaining a full understanding of the components, how they interact and the repercussions changes might have on the overall system. Although the study and diagnosis phase might ultimately be more important than the action phase, I'm personally excited to see the treatment begin to take affect. Some to major building blocks we've spent the last few years developing have finally come to fruition. This year we will begin a statewide demonstration project that will study payment and delivery of care reform by engaging payers and providers. Selection of defined contribution plans for the insurance portal will begin this summer and a risk adjuster board will be named as well. Small group employers can begin to purchase the new defined benefit contribution plans through the insurance portal beginning Jan. 1, 2010.
I could go on about the details of the reform effort, but space in this column is short. Part of what has contributed to our progress to date is the participation of average citizens in the political process.
For more information on the Health System Reform Task Force or for details on how you can participate, go to the Legislative Website, HYPERLINK "http://www.le.Utah.gov" www.le.Utah.gov or HYPERLINK http://www.speakerclark.com www.speakerclark.com.
With your help we can rehabilitate our health system into one that serves all Utahns.