Commission looks at bill, safety and future
August 20th, 2008

Commission looks at bill, safety and future

Star-Tribune staff writer

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 2:06 AM MDT

The Wyoming Healthcare Commission moved forward with several projects even as its sunset date looms next summer.

One of the projects will include improving emergency medical services in the state, the commission's executive director Susie Scott said at Monday's meeting in Casper.

The commission will present its recommendations for legislation on emergency services to the Labor, Health and Human Services Joint Interim Committee in September.

There they also hope to have recommendations regarding Senate Five 85, patient safety and the commission's future.

Senate File 85

A bill that caused quite a stir in the 2008 legislative session will most likely make another appearance in 2009 -- this time with the support of the commission.
The bill was never discussed with the commission.

Senate File 85 created an insurance pool for people who have entry-level jobs but make too much to be on Medicaid and don't receive insurance through work.

After it failed in the House, the Legislature asked the commission to review it.

The commission agrees with much of SF 85 and wants to create a similar project.

The difference is everyone is involved, said Dr. Larry Kirven, co-chairman of the commission.

He said the demonstration project doesn't focus on a health insurance program like the original bill.

"Our goal is to keep people healthy," Kirven said. "We want to reduce the number of trips to the emergency room."

The commission still wants to give a certain population access to care like the original bill, and it is also considering the same population of workers.

If the state simply insures people, there is no benefit to stay healthy, Kirven said.

Preventive benefits and health savings accounts would be part of the project in hopes of controlling health care costs, he said.

"This is an experiment," Kirven said. "We're not sure if we will be successful, but it's something different."

The project could be expanded to a larger population.

Organizing patient safety

The commission hopes Wyoming will join the more than 20 other states that already have patient safety organizations.

A patient safety organization provides training for hospitals and clinics to improve safety, Scott said. It also studies the unsafe practices that cause errors.

Scott said some hospitals and clinics in the state don't have enough resources to cover every aspect of patient safety training. A patient safety organization would give them training for free, Scott said.

The commission has turned to the Maryland Patient Safety Center as a model.

The patient safety task force on the commission still needs to determine the budget for the organization, Scott said. It will have to recommend legislation to appropriate initial funds.

Scott said a patient safety organization in Wyoming could cost about $200,000 a year. After it opened, it would need to find sustainable funding.

"It's improving patient safety and reducing cost," Scott said. "And, of course, it's better care."

The next step

The commission will end next summer, but most people agree there needs to be some entity in its place to direct health care policy.

"Health care hasn't really gotten any better in the last five years. It's probably worse across the country," said Dr. Brent Sherard, director of the Wyoming Department of Health. "You have to maintain that forum for health care discussion."

Other states have permanent commissions, some with decision-making powers.

Over the next few months, the commission will decide what type of authority a health policy organization would have and who it would work for.

"I don't think we should say to the legislators to keep the Healthcare Commission," said Barb Rea, a commissioner. "There needs to be an evolution."

Contact health reporter Allison Rupp at (307) 266-0534 or