Supreme Courts health care decision offers opportunity

July 22, 2012
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The decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act is a significant step forward in changing our health care system. The law triggered considerable controversy, particularly for its requirement that everyone must buy health insurance, and even supporters admit that the law has flaws. Moreover, its political future is far from certain.

Still, we shouldn’t lose sight of the underlying reasons the law was passed in the first place. Too many people in our country are uninsured or underinsured, and health care costs threaten the nation’s financial health and competitiveness. These problems are beyond dispute. The Affordable Care Act, when fully implemented, will expand the number of people with health coverage, promote innovations to improve the quality of health care, and support efforts to make our communities healthier places in which to live.

Transforming our current health system will require much more than simply implementing the Affordable Care Act. Our goal is a system where providers in West Michigan are among the best in the nation at delivering evidence-based care and avoiding waste, thus reducing the medical cost trend. In the process, we will advance a system that will help the people in West Michigan lead healthier lives.

Improving the quality and value of health care in our region is not a partisan issue. No one law can bring about the kind of change we need. It requires the work of those of us at the local level who understand the unique challenges we face and can develop the approaches to address them.

As the one place where the people who give care, get care and pay for care can come together, the Alliance for Health convenes all of the participants in our health care system, recognizing that no one group of stakeholders can change the system by itself. Each of us has a crucial role to play in working toward a high-value, high-quality health system. We recognize that in the end, health care is local — used and provided locally.

That’s why participation in the Alliance for Heath is so important. Together, we can transform our system. The more people who get involved, the greater our impact will be.

Membership in the Alliance also is an opportunity to hear from other thought leaders about innovations that may work here. For example, the Alliance has active plans to convene a community commission to help determine how our West Michigan area can thrive, whether or not the health reform law survives.

Similarly, the Alliance is pursuing a recommendation made by a large and diverse group of community leaders to change the way we pay for care locally in order to provide incentives for high-quality and cost-effective care that benefits everyone.

We look forward to the community’s continued collaboration as we work for health reform of, by and for West Michigan.

Lody Zwarensteyn is president of Alliance for Health. He can be reached at lody@afh.org

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