ST. LOUIS (PRNewswire) - Former U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson encouraged state leaders to
dedicate more effort to improving the health of citizens through increased
preventive care programs and said that Medicaid could play a leading role
in this health transformation.
Addressing the second Medicaid Makeover: Learning What Works summit in
St. Louis, Thompson said that the focus of health care in America needs to
change from treatment to prevention. "Wouldn't it be great if governors
would take pride in bragging about the health of their states?" Thompson
asked the audience made up of state health officials, patient advocates and
elected officials. "I'd like to envision a time when governors compete to
see which state can vaccinate the most number of children, or have the
least number of smokers."
The former four-term governor of Wisconsin also said, "We need to
manage health more than just manage care. Right now, the states don't have
enough flexibility to develop innovative Medicaid programs that tackle
prevention because they are weighed down by the financial burdens of
treatment. This needs to change."
Thompson cited Vermont, Florida and Massachusetts as states that were
taking the lead in making over Medicaid.
Medicaid, which provides medical coverage to 53 million Americans,
accounts for 22 percent of all state funding, and just between 2000 and
2003 Medicaid spending increased by almost a third. These increased costs
have placed an enormous burden on state treasuries and have forces many
states to curtail Medicaid coverage.
In Missouri, Medicaid spending has surged from $26 million in 1968 to
$5.5 billion in 2005, and the number of enrollees has climbed 37 percent
between 2000 and 20005.
Dr. Q. Michael Ditmore, director of the Missouri Division of Medical
Services, also saw the need for more innovation in Medicaid and the way it
is administered. "Medical officials can't just write checks; they have to
assure quality and seek ways to lowers costs."
Steven H. Lipstein, CEO of BJC Healthcare, said that increased health
literacy can play an important role in improving people's health care. He
noted that most people are unaware of their own basic medical data, such as
blood pressure or blood sugar levels. He also stressed the need for
programs that improve public health education.
"Medicaid Makeover is a vehicle to foster constructive debate
nationwide among the various constituencies on the future of this critical
program," Thompson said. "My experience in reforming welfare as governor of
Wisconsin gives me the confidence that a consensus can be built that
rewards innovation and provides the states more flexibility in
For instance, Medicaid may provide coverage to a woman while she is
pregnant, but that same woman may not be entitled to medical care prior to
her pregnancy or 60 days after the infant's delivery.
The first Medicaid Makeover was held in Atlanta on May 22. Thompson,
the independent chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions is
expected to offer his plan based on these summits in mid July. The former
secretary also said that he had been invited to address the National
Governors Association on health care in August.