Editorial: Alaska Natives offer solutions to trim health care costs

"No matter what happens to President Obama’s health care reforms after the November elections, the disjointed, costly American health care system must find ways to slow the rate of spending while delivering quality care. There is widespread pessimism that anything much can be achieved quickly, but innovative solutions are emerging in unexpected places. A health care system owned and managed by Alaska’s native people has achieved astonishing results in improving the health of its enrollees while cutting the costs of treating them.

At a recent conference for health leaders from the United States and abroad at the native-owned Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, the Alaskans described techniques that could be adopted by almost any health care organization willing to transform its culture. Such a transformation would require upfront financing for training, data processing and the like, but the investment should rapidly pay off in reduced costs. The foundation, established in 1982, provides primary outpatient care to Alaska natives and American Indians who had previously been the responsibility of the federal government’s Indian Health Service. It serves 45,000 enrollees in the Anchorage area and 10,000 more scattered in remote villages, most reachable only by air, on an annual budget of $200 million. It also jointly owns and manages (with a consortium of native tribes) a small hospital, and has built a modern campus of outpatient clinics with the help of loans, grants, bonds and retained earnings. "

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Editoral: A Formula for Cutting Health Costs (The New York Times 7/22)

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