February 9, 2011 in News, Region

Sebelius, Gregoire talk health care costs

Associated Press
 
Byline Withheld photo

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, center right, speaks at a health care round table discussion, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, in Seattle, as Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire looks on at left.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE — U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to Seattle Wednesday to hear ideas on how to cut health care costs and make services more efficient.

She and Gov. Chris Gregoire led a meeting of health care officials from around the state. Sebelius said she wants to see what programs Washington and other states have adopted that might be used by the federal government.

Currently, “the best care is not delivered each and every time and we pay more for care that really doesn’t make people healthier,” Sebelius said.

She praised Virginia Mason Medical Center, where the meeting took place, as a model that could be adopted by much of the country.

Dr. Gary Kaplan, chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason, said the center 10 years ago adopted techniques pioneered by Toyota in Japan to involve all managers and employees in constant improvement. Since then, he said, the center has been able to save millions of dollars by identifying and eliminating waste.

Among the dozen health care leaders taking part in the meeting, several mentioned the need for more preventive and community-based care to keep people from getting seriously ill.

Dr. Michael Soman, president and chief medical executive for Group Health, said the cooperative has been focusing on more use of primary care physicians by patients and avoiding inappropriate emergency-room care.

Gregoire has set a goal to hold the growth of health care spending in the state to 4 percent a year by 2014 while maintaining or improving patient health outcomes.

She again criticized state Attorney General Rob McKenna for joining with nearly two dozen other attorneys general to challenge the national health care overhaul. Without the new health care law, state and local governments, families and businesses won’t be able to meet rapidly increasing health costs, let alone receive good care, she said.

“I can’t make it happen at the local level,” Gregoire said. “I have tried.”

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