Economic Forecast: Delaware’s giant Health Care Innovation Plan

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Rita Landgraf

Delaware spends more than $8 billion a year on health care for employers, consumers and taxpayers. That’s more than double the current annual operating budget for the State of Delaware ($3.83 billion).

In fact, Delawareans pay 25 percent more for health care than the national average. Yet many of our health outcomes have long been below average. Two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight. Our diabetes rate is the 10th worst in the nation. And our cancer mortality rate, while declining, is still above the U.S. rate.

More than 100 Delaware stakeholders—patients, doctors, hospitals, insurers, businesspeople, educators and government officials—came together over a year ago to design a plan to improve the quality of health care, reduce the costs of care, and improve the health of Delawareans. That is a huge task, but a critical one for the future of our state.

Last month, Delaware was awarded a four-year $35 million federal grant to implement the state’s Health Care Innovation Plan, under which:

  • Delawareans play a role in their care as decision makers and consumers.
  • Every Delawarean has a primary-care provider.
  • Care is coordinated by a team of professionals that understands your needs and responds to your questions and concerns.
  • Technology allows the care team to access the patient’s medical history and prescriptions so the patient doesn’t need to repeat information.
  • Behavioral-health providers are part of that team.
  • Insurers, employers and others who pay for health care will reward providers for innovative, efficient and quality care, rather than just the quantity of care provided.
  • Communities address local health needs and integrate local resources with the delivery of care.

To guide implementation of the plan and track its progress, the nonprofit Delaware Center for Health Innovation will engage the public through its board meetings, the state’s Health Care Commission, discussions with employers, town-hall meetings, and the Delaware Health Information Network.

The state will focus on many other areas of health in 2015, including expanding access to care and treatment for addiction.

On Jan. 1, 2014, coverage for thousands of Delawareans began through the health insurance marketplace and the Medicaid expansion. In the first year, 23,612 people enrolled in coverage, including many who had been previously locked out because of preexisting conditions or the unaffordability of insurance. We expect thousands more to gain coverage, which connects people to preventive care and early treatment, reducing the necessity for emergency-room visits and often avoiding more costly care. Open enrollment on the marketplace continues through Feb. 15.

Finally, in 2015, Delawareans will see expanded public treatment and recovery support for the thousands of people and families impacted by addiction. Revamped adult treatment services will customize the length and the intensity of clinical treatment to suit the patient’s needs, while increasing the state’s capacity to support the rising demand for services. Access to treatment will increase in New Castle and Sussex counties, including a new withdrawal-management center in Sussex County. For people struggling with addiction, it means an opportunity to live in recovery and contribute in positive ways to their communities.

(Rita Landgraf has served as the cabinet secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services since 2009.)

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