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Skorton stresses need for Cornell campuses to work on universal health insurance for New Yorkers

NEW YORK -- Employers, individuals and government all share responsibility in trying to reduce the number of New York state residents without health insurance, said members of a health policy roundtable at a Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) conference.

Hosted by Cornell President David Skorton, the January conference drew state legislators, union representatives and independent policy analysts, as well as faculty, administrators and students from Cornell's New York City and Ithaca campuses, Skorton emphasized the importance of Cornell Ithaca-New York City campus collaborations in developing a comprehensive insurance policy for New York state. He proposed continued engagement on this topic between policy-makers and researchers on the two Cornell campuses.

Also at the conference, titled "Covering the Uninsured in New York State: What Lessons Can We Learn From Other State Initiatives?" James R. Tallon Jr., president of the United Hospital Fund, and Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, presented a blueprint developed jointly by the two organizations for universal health insurance coverage in New York state. They emphasized that shared responsibility among employers, individuals and the government is important for any successful universal coverage plan. They also compared the proposed blueprint to approaches being taken to expand health coverage in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Iowa and Minnesota.

In a panel discussion, "Health Insurance Exchange: The Massachusetts Connector Model," speakers Nancy Turnbull, president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Deborah Chollet, senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, and Norman K. Thurston, a research consultant for the Utah Department of Health, discussed insurance exchange features of the new Massachusetts program for health reform. They also reviewed the Utah Insurance Exchange, a clearinghouse for private health plans that insure individuals and small-business employees.

A second panel, moderated by Bruce Schackman, chief of WCMC's Division of Health Policy, focused on developing individual and employer mandate requirements and putting them into effect. Speakers were John Holahan, director of health policy for the Urban Institute; Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizen's Health Initiative; and Lynn Taylor, senior researcher at Mathematica.

William White, director of the Sloan Program in Health Administration in the College of Human Ecology, summed up with the belief that covering all New Yorkers is an attainable goal. Many existing options, he added, are not excessively expensive compared with the total health care budget.

The event was co-hosted by the Division of Health Policy of WCMC's Department of Public Health and the Department of Policy Analysis and Management of the College of Human Ecology, and coordinated by Schackman, Kosali Simon, assistant professor of policy analysis and management, and Charles Kruzansky, director of the Office of Government Relations, for Cornell.

Claudia Kaplan is a communications specialist at Weill Cornell Medical College.

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