As health care costs continue to climb and constrain federal, state, employer, and family budgets, policymakers are searching for new strategies to reduce health spending. Prevention and the promotion of population health have recently gained traction as strategies that may contribute to cost reductions. The ACA includes significant provisions to promote prevention (both clinical preventive services and community-based approaches), population health, and disparity reductions. To achieve its goals, enacting the ACA may result in an unprecedented level of collaboration between traditional public health entities and the private sector health system. AcademyHealth has convened a panel to provide the state, local, federal, and carrier perspectives on this realignment during the National Health Policy Conference. “Redefining Public Health Post-ACA” (on February 13 from 4:30-6:00 p.m.), the closing plenary on the first day of the conference, will focus on how to integrate public health in this new area for health care. The “traditional” public health system may need to be redefined to position itself as a partner in a reformed health system, and session moderator Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, will explore that theory. Paul Halverson, director of the Arkansas State Health Department, and Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, will suggest a unique role for governmental public health agencies. Eduardo Sanchez, from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas, will provide a vision for creating one health system from its two now separate parts (public health and health care).

“The part of the health system that assures that food eaten in restaurants is stored, prepared, and served safely (something we all take for granted) and that outbreaks of influenza or hepatitis A are competently investigated and contained (also taken for granted) is essential to achieve the overall goals of better health care, lower cost, and better health status and complements the medical care delivery system,” explains Sanchez. “Who actually does the 'restaurant work' or the communicable disease control work—and how that is paid for—is what we need to put on the table and discuss.”
Finally, Jim Hester, the new director of the Community and Population Health division at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, will preview the strategies being implemented at CMS to improve population health. Overall, the panel will address how we can expect the ACA to improve population health, what population health needs may remain unmet, and strategies for collaborating with the health system so that, together, the shift toward prevention and population health achieves better health outcomes. View the full agenda and register for the National Health Policy Conference.