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December 16, 2003

Business, health leaders discuss how regional planning can improve health care

Nearly 100 business and health leaders from around the state attended a Business Council conference to discuss regional health collaboration between businesses and health services and how those collaborations can improve healthcare quality and control costs.

The conference focused on an emerging trend involving regional health care advisory groups. These groups vary in the particulars, but each has the goal of fostering ongoing dialogues about health care among individual consumers, business leaders, hospital executives, health-care providers, and health insurers.

Each group assesses its unique circumstances in seeking the best ways to assess health-care needs, deliver appropriate and affordable care, and improve overall health-care quality.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer keynoted the December 10 event in Syracuse. He encouraged participants to look to regional initiatives as a healthy alternative to today’s health care situation.

Spitzer said improving health-care planning and administration will require new approaches that differ both from government-driven bureaucracies of the past and today's managed-care environment. Managed care proved its utility in the transition from government bureaucracy, but "it has hit a brick wall," he said.

But individuals and institutions advocating regional planning must be careful in urging increased collaboration, he said. In particular, he said, they respect the boundary between collaboration and provider agreements to set prices, choose customers, and allocate specialties. Agreements of that sort would run afoul of antitrust law, he said.

Spitzer encouraged businesses and community leaders to be the independent voice in collaborations. Third-party recommendations on community and health-care resources are not subject to the same anti-trust restrictions placed on collaborations among providers, he said. This independent voice in collaborations would play a similar role to that played by the state Department of Health nearly a decade ago.

Leading regional-decision makers from Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo provided conference participants with an overview of regional efforts underway in those areas.

That panel included:

Conference participants showed interest in a Community Technology Assessment Advisory Board (CTAAB). CTAAB was established by community interests in Rochester in 1993 to review proposals for new or expanded technologies, services, and capital expenditures, and then to share its opinions on these ideas with the health-care community.

The agenda also included presentations by Elliott Shaw, director of government affairs for The Business Council and its health-policy lobbyist, Larry Becker, director of benefits for the Xerox Corporation, and Craig Duncan, president and CEO of Northeast Health.

The Council will be surveying conference participants in the coming weeks to gather feedback about the conference. The survey will also question participants about what specific actions should be taken as follow up to this conference.