In Greenville Health System’s pediatric clinic in South Carolina, pregnant patients on Medicaid get their routine medical checkups in groups. The two-hour visits, which are a part of the CenteringPregnancy program, also include activities that bring patients closer together and help them prepare for motherhood.
In South Carolina, the rate of premature births is higher than the national average. But this may change, as this program is now being implemented in prenatal clinics statewide. And according to the Centering Healthcare Institute, the program has saved the health care system billions of dollars and significantly reduced preterm births for its patients.
South Carolina is one of several states implementing innovative policies on the local level. As the federal government remains divided on health care policy, states are stepping in to fill the void.
“The most interesting things [in health care] are happening at the local level,” said Sarah Kliff, senior policy correspondent at Vox and host of The Impact podcast.
Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economics professor and architect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pointed to another innovative program in Louisiana, where officials have been exploring ways to make costly hepatitis C drugs accessible to residents.
“It’s the most innovative approach I’ve seen to dealing with the drug pricing problem we have in America, [because it] moves from a pay-per-unit model towards a subscription model,” he said.
But Gruber isn’t optimistic about these programs’ large-scale feasibility and argues that employers will also need to come up with innovative solutions to health care for their employees.
Unlike the federal government, “[states] don’t have the financial clout to make major investments,” he said. “The real innovation should come out of the employer sector.”
And there are signs that this is also starting to happen. Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, announced in June that the company would utilize its talent and resources to improve employee health care.
The company teamed up with Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon and appointed of Dr. Atul Gawande to lead their new health care venture.
But Gruber says in the long run, the federal government will also need to step in. “If you look at the really significant interventions that have improved our health care over time, it’s been the federal sector that’s led.”
In the short-term, though, Kliff sees consumers taking matters into their own hands. “There’s such frustration with the high prices in the American health care system”, she says, “And it’s possibly catalyzing action around the cost of health care, as consumers become more aware of the really high prices that [they’re] being charged.”
Aceel Kibbi is an intern at Innovation Hub. Follow her on Twitter: @AceelKibbi.