Expanded leverage for CMS could bolster healthcare reform, Senate told

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The government could use Medicare to test new cost-saving, quality improving healthcare reform efforts, but it would have to give the program more leverage and flexibility, panelists testified at a recent Senate roundtable conference.

The Senate Finance Committee met with more than a dozen representatives from various fields of healthcare on Tuesday to discuss possible approaches to healthcare reform. One popular idea at the conference involved rethinking the way the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approach patient care. According to panelist Glenn Steele, president of Geisinger Health Systems, giving CMS latitude to implement a patient-focused model, and the flexibility to test and evaluate new measures without having to first undergo a time-consuming demonstration project could help speed along the reform process.

Former CMS Administrator Mark McClellan told the committee that some upfront costs would be needed, but he added that that initial investment should yield demonstrable cost savings and quality improvements. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked the panel for some guarantee that the reform proposals would not simply pile on additional costs to the system, noting that he has still “got to get some comfort with” some of the reform proposals.”