News Release: School of Public Health

Feb. 9,  2009

National Health Care Experts Say, "Time is Now" for Health Care Reform

News Article ImageKenneth E. Thorpe, PhD. Download high-resolution image.

Reforming America's health care system requires innovative strategies for disease prevention, primary care and finance and payment, leaders from the health and policymaking communities declared during three days of panel discussions recently held at Emory University.

Participants in the Center for Entitlement Reform's expert panel meetings also agreed that comprehensive health reform encompassing those three key areas is essential to controlling the rise in chronic diseases and stemming the growth in health care spending that threatens to overtop federal budgets.

The meetings convened a bipartisan group of national health leaders and were sponsored by the Emory University Center for Entitlement Reform and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

"There is an urgent need to develop effective models of primary care that link up clinicians and community-based prevention," says Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD, professor and chair of health policy and management at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, and executive director of the Center for Entitlement Reform.

"America consistently spends more for care than any other industrialized nation, but it’s not necessarily the right care," says Thorpe. "Our intent with these meetings is to develop true consensus in health care reform. Across the board, thought leaders agreed that better public and private policies to promote prevention and management of chronic illness, strengthen primary care and modernize finance and payment are needed."

Leaders from some of the most influential organizations in the health care debate assembled at Emory to discuss priorities for health reform in 2009, and how they will lend their efforts to finding consensus recommendations. Janet Collins, PhD, participated in the prevention-focused meeting. She directs the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Promotion at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Population-based preventive care is the missing book-end to clinical care, and an important factor in moving the focus of the system to disease prevention and health promotion," says Collins. "In short, real health reform starts with prevention."

Robert Berenson, MD, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, participated in the panel tackling reforms in care delivery. He outlined recommendations on patient-centered medical homes that he said could facilitate partnerships between individual patients, their personal physicians, and patients’ families and communities to improve individual health and health system functioning.

According Berenson, 20 percent of the Medicare population suffers from five or more chronic conditions, and at least two thirds of Medicare spending goes toward chronic care.

Chronic diseases increasingly affect younger Americans as well. According to the CDC, chronic disease accounts for about 75 percent of the nation's aggregate health care spending - or about $5,300 per person in the U.S. each year.

"Cost control currently is impossible, but it is absolutely vital," says Henry Aaron, PhD, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Speaking on health care finance and payment, Aaron warns, “Large and growing federal health care spending threatens unsustainable budget deficits, while large and growing private health care spending threatens to crowd out growth of consumption other than on health care.”  Aaron argues that current payment arrangements should be modified so patients and providers have incentives to economize, and that research should be undertaken so that they have information to do so sensibly.

Peter G. Peterson Foundation Vice President Gene Steuerle notes the importance the Obama Administration and leaders in the 111th Congress have placed on moving forward a comprehensive health reform bill to address prevention, delivery, cost, quality and coverage early in 2009.

"The new Administration has already begun to lay the framework for health care reform legislation," says Steuerle. "I congratulate the Center for Entitlement Reform on assembling this respected group of bipartisan health care leaders and outlining their consensus recommendations. We have a unique opportunity to reform our health care and entitlement programs to reflect current economic realities and longer life spans, while also making the programs solvent, sustainable and more savings-oriented."

Consensus priorities from each of the three expert panel meetings will be compiled by the Center for Entitlement Reform to make policy recommendations that inform and educate business and labor leaders, health services and health care professionals, the media and the public.

About the sponsors:

The Emory Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions
The mission of the Emory Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions is to improve public policymaking through research, education and technical assistance. The Institute serves as a critical hub for broad interdisciplinary research, applied policy development and public policy training – all focused on evidence-based, innovative solutions to complex problems facing the public, private and nonprofit sectors. For more information, visit

The Emory Center for Entitlement Reform
The Center for Entitlement Reform is one of only a few university-based research centers in the U.S. focused on federal health care entitlement reform. The Center is currently conducting research and analysis to: outline the factors responsible for the rise in federal entitlement spending, specifically focused on public health insurance programs, link new approaches in financing, payment, and care delivery for achieving better value (lower costs with the same or better outcomes) based on factors driving higher spending; and, present the options to key policymakers in the U.S. Congress and White House, along with state-level governments, business leaders, the public and the media. For more information, visit

Peter G. Peterson Foundation
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of several key challenges threatening America's future, and to accelerating action on them. To meet these challenges successfully, the Foundation works to bring Americans together to find sensible, sustainable solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results in National Economic Responsibility, Entitlement Reform, Health Care Reform, and Tax Reform Personal Financial Responsibility. For more information, visit


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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