Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Happy New Year; welcome to 2015. We have much to celebrate — nearly 3.5 million Californians newly enrolled in Covered California and Medi-Cal, and almost 600,000 new applications and 350,000 determined eligible in the first month of open enrollment for Year 2. In year 1, California reduced its high uninsured rate by half. Just as important, health care costs per capita are under control and premiums are reflecting the slower growth in the costs of care and medical errors and unnecessary re-admissions are down by 17%. So in California at least, the Affordable Care Act is working and working well on all three fronts – more coverage, improved quality and lower costs – due to all your efforts.
This is only the beginning. In the coming year, we have important opportunities to get better. We need to design coverage that will insure every Californian regardless of income or immigration status. San Francisco, Alameda and Los Angeles have already made important progress towards that goal, and we need to learn and apply these lessons in other counties and the State Legislature. While President Obama’s Executive Order paves the way, Congress and the President need to forge an agreement on immigration reform, so that immigrant workers can emerge from the shadows and further grow our economy.
We need to design coverage that is more affordable and effective in meeting patients’ health needs. Integrating behavioral and physical health is our biggest challenge and opportunity; it will help patients, families and the entire society if we treat the whole person, rather than trifurcating the care of those with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders into three separate systems. Integrating delivery systems and reforming the outdated ways we reimburse doctors, hospitals, health plans and other providers is at the top of our to do list. E-medicine has great potential to integrate care, reduce costs and improve outcomes in a transformative fashion. If we can do these things, high-value and great health outcomes will become the norm for every Californian.
We thank you immensely for all the extraordinary achievements of the past year due to your hard work. As we enter the New Year, our challenges become ever more interesting, and our collaborations ever more effective.