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Press Release - Gov. Perry Announces Health Care System Integrity Partnership

Location: San Antonio, TX

Press Release - Gov. Perry Announces Health Care System Integrity Partnership

Also Announces New Web Site that Allows Consumer to Comparison Shop for Health Care

SAN ANTONIO - Gov. Rick Perry today issued an executive order creating a new public-private partnership that will further efforts to create a secure electronic medical records system, arm consumers with the ability to comparison shop for health care and provide a more robust health insurance market for small employers.

"Ultimately, our goal is to improve patient safety and provide consumers with better care at a price more Texas families and small businesses can afford," Perry said.

Perry said the executive order will lead to better use of information technology in health care, empower consumers with information about the price and quality of care provided at specific institutions, and encourage more small employers to provide health plans for their employees.

The directives in the executive order are among the recommendations of the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee, which was established by legislation the governor signed in 2005.

The executive order lays the foundation for a new public-private partnership, the Texas Health Care System Integrity Authority, which is charged with developing a network for the secure electronic exchange of medical records. Serving on the Authority will be representatives of those who have a stake in the health care system: consumers, employers, providers, payers and government agencies.

"In an emergency, getting a patient's medical records quickly could mean the difference between life and death," Perry said.

The current paper system, which experts estimate accounts for 25 percent of health care costs, severely hampers a doctor's ability to know patients' history, what existing conditions they have, or what medicines they are allergic to when they arrive at the emergency room.

Perry noted that an electronic medical records system has several advantages, including:

* Allowing doctors to know the best course of treatment.
* Avoiding the duplication of expensive and time-consuming medical tests.
* Giving patients the ability to play a more active role in their own care by accessing their records anytime they choose.
* Providing better security against unauthorized access of patient records.

"We can not only save billions of dollars on the overall cost of health care, we can save countless lives while doing substantially more to protect patient privacy," Perry said.

The Health Care System Integrity Authority will also be charged with developing recommendations on how to make health insurance more accessible to small employers and how to empower consumers with information from both providers and insurers about the cost and quality of care provided in physicians' offices and hospitals.

"The Texas Health Care System Integrity Authority will provide a forum for sharing ideas and developing solutions for moving forward on a bigger scale," said Richard Bettis, CAE, president/CEO of the Texas Hospital Association. "Texas hospitals look forward to working with Gov. Perry's group and with members of the Texas Legislature to improve our health care system and to make health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible to all Texans."

"The physicians of Texas commend Gov. Rick Perry for this important step toward improving the health of all Texans," Dr. Ladon W. Homer, president of the Texas Medical Association. "We look forward to participating in the governor's partnership, whose duties dovetail quite nicely with Texas Medical Association's Healthy Vision 2010, our comprehensive plan to improve the accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness of Texas health care."

Perry also announced that starting today Texas patients will have better access to price and quality information through a new feature on

At this web site, which is hosted by the Texas Department of Insurance, consumers can compare prices, as well as the average length of stay and mortality rates for certain procedures. They also can look at health plan benefits side by side, research various physicians and hospitals, and find a wealth of other information that will help them make better decisions about their health care.

Finding ways to contain health care costs is imperative, Perry said, because they are growing at an unsustainable pace.

For example, over a recent eight-year period, the average annual insurance premium for a Texas family doubled from $5,000 to 10,000. Many small businesses are being forced to reduce benefits, and more families turning to government programs to meet their health care needs.

In Texas, state government is already the largest single payer of health care costs. Health care spending in the current state budget rose $11 billion dollars over the previous two-year budget cycle - a stunning 20 percent increase driven in large part by rigid federal mandates.

"The result of all of this is a health care system that is growing wildly unstable, that offers less care at a higher price and that will eventually collapse without substantive reform," Perry said. "Today Texas is taking steps that will help us win the long-term challenge of preserving our healthcare system, improving patient safety and the quality of care, and lowering costs so more small employers can afford healthcare plans for their workers."

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