Health care providers, others gather for Health Care Affordability Summit in Orlando

Better, more affordable health care?

ORLANDO -- Giving more people access to quality medical care, the containment of health care costs and the controversial expansion of Medicaid because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, were among the issues that dominated the first day of the Health Care Affordability Summit on Thursday.

The challenges were tempered by optimism -- and predictions -- that some of the changes associated with health care reform would improve patient care and drive an economic boon.

"[Florida] is rapidly growing state," said Michael Millenson, the president of Chicago-based Health Quality Advisors. "By giving people health insurance, what you do is you help create jobs. You can look at the cost and the benefit from the health care side. But what about from an economic productivity side? That's what we really need to focus on. Better health makes [people] more productive workers."

Millenson opened the two-day summit that before an audience of more than 300 health care providers, insurance company heads and business owners.

He called the reform a "revolution."

"You're never going to see a bunch of providers get before a camera and say, "You know what? Thank God they passed this law because now we're going to give you better care than they did before. But, that's what's happening. That's what we can see beneath the surface," Millenson said.

A big focus, he said, would be preventative and incentive-driven care -- a proactive approach to keep people healthy.

Millenson said more employers would promote "living healthier" incentives that could help their employees reduce their insurance rates by as much as 30 percent.

As controversial as health care reform is, so is the expansion of Medicaid, some doctors said.

Some economists pegged the cost in Florida at just over $5 billion over the next ten years -- enough to cover a quarter of the state's four million uninsured.

"Of course it's going to cost more than we thought," Millenson said. "Medicare costs more than we thought and we didn't repeal Medicare. The drug benefit for seniors cost more than we thought and we didn't repeal it. The question is, "Are we going to get value for our money as a society for doing this? And, we are."

Earlier this week, Governor Rick Scott traveled to Washington to meet with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to address the Medicaid expansion and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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