Health care leaders cite reforms and innovation, call for stability in state budget

Opportunity Washington identified health care as one of the state’s fastest-growing employment sectors.

The largest increase in jobs over the past 15 years came in health services …which grew by 43 percent to a total of approximately 452,000 jobs. (page 5)

And we noted that rising health care costs take a toll on the state budget.

Even with the ongoing economic recovery, the state budget will face stress for the foreseeable future as a result of court-mandated increases in basic education funding, increased health care expenses, negotiated public employee compensation increases, and increases in other required state spending.

Given these pressures, special emphasis must be placed on controlling key budget drivers, including health care, labor costs, and debt.

In the Seattle Times, Rick Cooper, CEO of Everett Clinic and chairman of the Washington Healthcare Forum, and Rick Rubin, CEO of OneHealthPort, have a good op-ed discussing how stable state funding can help control costs and improve health care delivery. It’s a timely reminder of trade-offs in a tight budget session. The decisions ahead will not be easy. The op-ed informs the debate. Among their points:

New structures and systems are being deployed throughout Washington’s health-care community and initial results are promising: The care patients receive is better and safer, cost trends are down and access has increased. This innovation is being driven by market forces and state and federal legislation. The state participates in reforms as a purchaser, regulator, educator and a leader.

The timing is right for the health industry to improve its efficiency as the patient population it serves is growing. Medicaid covers 1.6 million people, including 550,000 new enrollees. As the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and Medicaid expand to enroll more residents (nearly 700,000 are newly covered), our health-care system must do more. During this tumultuous period, the need for stable state funding is greater than ever.

Read the whole thing.