Bending the Curve: Person-Centered Health Care Reform – A Framework for Improving Care and Slowing Health Care Cost Growth

A woman and her health care provider

Executive Summary:

We propose a framework for health care reform that focuses on supporting person-centered care. With continued innovation toward more personalized care, this is the best way to improve care and health while also bending the curve of health care cost growth.

Our health care system holds great promise. As a result of fundamental breakthroughs in biomedical science, improvements in data systems and network capabilities, and continuing innovation in health care delivery, care is becoming increasingly individualized and prevention-oriented. The best treatment for a patient involves not just specific services covered under traditional approaches to health insurance financing, but also includes new technologies and new kinds of care and support at home and beyond traditional health care settings. These advances require health care providers to work with patients and their caregivers to target increasingly sophisticated treatments and to coordinate care effectively ways that works best for each patient.

Our report’s person-focused reforms aim to support these changes in care—not as an afterthought or as an addition to our health care financing and regulation, but as the core goal. Instead of having to work around fee-for-service (FFS) payments and regulations that can complicate getting the highest-value care in each case, providers and patients will be able to receive more support for the specific approaches to care delivery that can make the most difference. The support comes from aligning reforms in provider payment, benefit design, regulation, and health plan payment and competition. To avoid short-term disruptions, our systematic framework involves a clear path that builds on existing reforms in the public and private sector, supports transitional steps to assist providers, and includes close evaluation and opportunities for adjustments along the way. While our primary goal is better health through better care, we estimate that our reforms would achieve an estimated $300 billion or more in net federal savings in the next decade, and provide a path to sustaining per capita cost growth that is much more in line with per capita growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). After the proposed reforms are implemented in the coming decade, long-term savings from achieving better health and sustainable spending growth will exceed $1 trillion over 20 years. Our proposals can be scaled up or down, and can also be combined with other proposed reforms to achieve additional reductions in health care costs. Our approach enables Congress to focus on overall cost, quality, and access goals that are very difficult to address under current law – so that whatever the spending level, that spending will do more for health.

These issues of health care quality and cost must be addressed. If a clear framework like ours is not implemented, the alternative is likely to be continued reliance on short-term cost controls, including across-the-board cuts in payments like sequestration, or delays and restrictions in both needed coverage updates for vulnerable populations and new types of innovative care—perpetuating large gaps in quality of care.

Our proposals represent an alternative to such care disruptions, cost-shifting, and threats to more innovative, person-focused care. We include proposals for Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance. We also propose a set of system-wide regulatory reforms and other initiatives, including antitrust and liability reforms. While some of these proposals are specific to particular programs and regulations, they are all grounded in our core goal of supporting quality care resulting in lower cost. This means a clear path for moving away from FFS payments and benefits and open-ended subsidies for insurance plan choices toward a direct focus on supporting better care and lower costs at the person level. Our proposals encompass significant reforms – such as modifications in Medicare payment mechanisms and benefits, and a change in the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance. The proposals reflect ideas that have gathered broad support in the past, but also include new approaches for addressing some of their shortcomings. Implementing our reforms together enables them to reinforce each other and create much more momentum for improving care while bending the cost curve.