Some big names in health care want to fix what they see as a broken system. First, they are mending fences.
Last year, a ferocious partisan battle left the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health law, fractured but largely intact. Andy Slavitt, a former top health official in the Obama administration, was one of the fiercest defenders of the law, rallying his nearly 200,000 Twitter followers to fight Republican efforts to overturn it.
Now, Slavitt is leading a new nonpartisan group of politicians, policy makers, executives and other public figures, called United States of Care, that will push for policy changes based on the idea that despite deep political divisions, Americans want many of the same things when it comes to their health.
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“The reality is that there are tons of details that almost everyone agrees on, we just don’t focus on them,” said Slavitt, who will serve as the USC’s chairman. “Public sentiment is fairly well unified in ways that Washington isn’t.”
The group is starting out as steadily rising costs reshape health care. Companies are striking unconventional deals, such as the proposed acquisition of insurer Aetna Inc. by pharmacy chain CVS Health Corp. Corporate giants Amazon.com Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. are joining up to try to push down employee health expenses. And hospitals led by Utah’s Intermountain Health Care Inc. are considering making generic drugs.
Such developments underline a broad dissatisfaction with the health care system, said Mike Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah and Health and Human Services Secretary in the George W. Bush administration who is among the group’s members.
“What you see with Berkshire and JPMorgan and Amazon, those are data points that say there’s energy behind the collaborative improvement of health care,” he said. “What you’re sensing is common pain that is ultimately bringing people together.”
Starting in the States
The nonprofit includes top hospital executives and former lawmakers, as well as actors Bradley Whitford and Andy Richter, entrepreneur Mark Cuban and physician and writer Atul Gawande. It will seek to advance economically and politically sustainable policies that assure access to affordable care.
It plans to start small, providing support for policy changes at the state level. The aim is to develop and test ideas that could eventually be applied in other states and nationwide. The Obama-era ACA law, which drew on a Massachusetts health care overhaul under Republican Governor Mitt Romney, is a precedent for such an approach.
Looking for solutions at the state level, and sidestepping what he sees as dysfunction at the federal level, is what helped draw Rod Hochman of Providence St. Joseph Health, which is among the biggest U.S. health systems, to the project.