HHS Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2007–2012 (Strategic Plan). Chapter 2: Strategic Goal 1: Health Care

09/19/2007

Improve the safety, quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care, including behavioral health care and long-term care.

Text Box: STRATEGIC GOAL 1:  HEALTH CAREStrategic Objective 1.1:  Broaden health insurance and long-term care coverage.Strategic Objective 1.2:Increase health care service availability and accessibility.Strategic Objective 1.3:Improve health care quality, safety, cost, and value.Strategic Objective 1.4:Recruit, develop, and retain a competent health care workforce.      Today, disease, illness, and disability can be as much a threat to Americans’ financial well-being as they are to Americans’ physical and mental well-being. Every American deserves reliable, high-quality, and reasonably priced health care that will be there when it is needed. Health care has to be available, affordable, portable, transparent, and efficient.

Health care in the United States is second to none, but it can be better. Although our Nation’s health care facilities and medical professionals are the best in the world, improving quality, constraining costs, and providing greater access remain key priorities.

Americans spend an increasing share of their income on health care. Health care spending in America has increased from 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1960 to more than 16 percent in 2006, and is predicted to continue to rise.iv The increasing burden of health spending on the U.S. economy is unsustainable. Higher spending on public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid strains Federal and State budgets. Higher insurance premiums burden workers with higher health costs and pose a challenge for employers to cover both wage increases and health insurance premiums.

The system needs to make progress in providing the excellent quality of care that all Americans deserve. We need to increase the rate at which patients receive recommended services and to reduce the number of unnecessary services. We also must eliminate preventable medical errors.

Forty-six million Americans do not have health insurance.v These individuals may face barriers to obtaining timely and continuous care. Because of their limited access to the system, their health problems may become more severe and further increase health care costs in the future.

One critical part of HHS’s strategy to address these problems is to improve transparency within the health care system. Because third parties such as insurance companies, employers, and governments finance the vast majority of health care spending, most Americans do not know—and do not have access to information about—the cost and quality of health care services in order to decide whether they want to receive those services.

Making health care affordable, accessible, and high quality depends on providing consumers with the knowledge they need to make informed choices about their health care coverage. The Federal Government must lead in accomplishing these objectives. We are encouraged that others in the private sector have joined in such efforts; we will continue to pursue these goals, which characterize a value-driven health care system.

The increasing costs of health care services, our increasingly older population with multiple chronic conditions, and an increasingly complex health care system challenge us to continue our efforts to develop new strategies to maintain safe and affordable services designed to meet Americans’ needs in their various income, family, and health circumstances. HHS is working to improve the efficiency and quality of health care that it finances and delivers. Promoting greater use of health information technology will ensure that accurate and timely information on a patient’s condition is available to all providers involved in the patient’s care and will reduce unnecessarily redundant diagnostic tests and office visits that add to health care costs. Implementation of value-based purchasing systems that include incentives to providers for treatment outcomes, rather than just reimbursements for treatments, will again help move the system toward more efficient and cost-effective provision of care aimed at improving the health and quality of life of the citizens touched by HHS programs.

At the same time, we must ensure that our efforts to reduce the cost of high-quality health care are reflected in more affordable and accessible health insurance coverage, to address the problem of the Nation’s growing number of citizens without health insurance. HHS continues to explore options for increasing the portability and accessibility of health insurance through innovative vehicles such as Health Savings Accounts coupled with high-deductible health plans, which have grown in popularity in recent years. Additionally, HHS is working to increase access to private health insurance for those who do not yet have it through initiatives such as Affordable Choices. Together, these initiatives will assist individuals in maintaining their health and prevent health spending from overburdening the economy.

Finally, the need to rebuild the health care infrastructure in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina offers the Department and its State and local partners the challenge of coordinating coverage; system capacity; and workforce recruitment, retention, and development in new ways that result in a revitalized health care system for that community.

Strategic Goal 1, Health Care, targets the need for people to be able to obtain and maintain affordable health care coverage; receive efficient, high-quality health care services; and access appropriate information for informed choices. HHS’s Administration on Aging (AoA), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Indian Health Service (IHS) have significant roles to play in realizing this goal. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Office on Disability (OD), Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) play roles in addressing this goal.

There are four broad objectives under Health Care:

  • Broaden health insurance and long-term care coverage;
  • Increase health care service availability and accessibility;
  • Improve health care quality, safety, cost, and value; and
  • Recruit, develop, and retain a competent health care workforce.

Below is a description of each strategic objective, followed by a description of the key programs, services, and initiatives the Department is undertaking to accomplish those objectives. Key partners and collaborative efforts are included under each relevant objective. The performance indicators selected for this strategic goal also are presented with baselines and targets. These measures are organized by objective. Finally, this chapter discusses the major external factors that will influence HHS’s ability to achieve these objectives, and how the Department is working to mitigate those factors.

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