With health care reform in and out of the national spotlight and a governor’s race approaching in November, national and state Medicaid experts, policymakers, and community members gathered in Trenton for the third annual Good Care Collaborative conference, Complex Care in New Jersey Medicaid: Setting a Vision. After hearing from panelists about bright spots of innovation across the country and state, the 130 attendees had the chance to write suggestions to the new state administration to advance complex care in New Jersey.

“The most powerful changes in health care in the country are happening in Medicaid,” said Frederick Isasi, Executive Director of Families USA. In his keynote, Frederick highlighted two examples of state-led health innovation: Washington State and Alaska. In Washington, the state created data linkages to better understand utilization patterns, eventually saving the state $35 million. In Alaska, 25 percent of the highest-utilizing patients were in one six-block area. Opening a health clinic with late hours in that area saved $27 million in one year.

An afternoon panel of New Jersey policy experts focused on the importance of aligning incentives and improving communication between sectors and between consumers and policymakers. “If we want to do anything about high cost populations and bend the cost curve, we need to get rid of silos in payment and treatment,” said Allison Hamblin, Senior Vice President at Center for Health Care Strategies.

Linda Schwimmer, President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute (NJHCQI), discussed NJHCQI’s recently published Medicaid 2.0: Blueprint for the Future, including its recommendation for a state Office of Health Transformation. Heather Howard, Director of State Health and Value Strategies at Princeton University, noted that an Office of Health Transformation would lay important groundwork for bolder structural changes like a Health Authority model, citing examples in Oregon and Washington. This would align incentives at the government level, allowing the government to move from reactive to proactive to realize a broad vision for health.

The Good Care Collaborative (GCC) is a statewide coalition, convened by the Camden Coalition, of patients, providers, payers and policy leaders from across New Jersey’s health care spectrum. Complex Care in New Jersey Medicaid: Setting a Vision was the third annual conference of the GCC.

The conference was closed with a keynote from Dr. Toyin Ajayi, Chief Health Officer at Google’s new Sidewalk Labs. “People with complex health care needs are falling through the cracks,” she said. “Our patients are an all too constant reminder of how vital this work is: we have to get it right.”

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