The 3rd Annual Kovner/Behrman Event at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, held on March 11th, attracted close to 200 key members of the New York health care community. The event is an annual dialogue between researchers and practitioners to improve the health care delivery system. This year’s dialogue was entitled “Government Accountability as Purchaser and Regulator.”

The panel consisted of Bruce Vladeck, Ph.D., senior vice president for policy of the Mount Sinai-NYU Medical Center and Health System and professor of health policy and geriatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Sara Rosenbaum, J.D., Harold and Jane Hirsch Professor of Health Law and Policy at the George Washington University Medical Center, School of Public Health and Health Services; and Bruce M. Bullen, Massachussetts Medicaid Director and Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance. Wagner Professor Anthony R. Kovner, Ph.D. moderated the discussion.

During the 90-minute dialogue, the panelists considered the standards of formal and substantive accountability to which all Medicaid parties - purchasers and regulators as well as private contractors - are or should be subjected. The panelists referred to Medicaid politics, legislative barriers, public misconceptions and simple attitude problems — with special focus on the differing sense of accountability — that make effective working relationships between government officials, private providers and Medicaid beneficiaries so difficult to achieve. However, they repeatedly cited the Massachusetts Medicaid system, MassHealth — directed by panelist Bruce Bullen — as a exemplary and enormously successful case that serves as a model for a well-developed purchasing mechanism, which should set standards across the country.

Panel moderator Anthony Kovner said: “Government officials should be held to the same standards of accountability for their administration of health programs that they demand from health plans.”

“Wagner is nationally known for its health program,” said Wagner Dean Jo Ivey Boufford, who introduced the panel. “As a center of excellence in this field, and in the face of many challenges of delivering health services in New York and the nation as a whole, we take seriously our responsibility to bring together researchers, practitioners and policy makers to support improvements in the availability and quality of care.”

The event attracted a remarkable cross-section of many of the most influential leaders in the New York healthcare community. Among the numerous distinguished guests, there were doctors and administrators present from an array of area hospitals, including the NYU Medical Center, NYU Downtown Hospital, Columbia Presbyterian, Montefiore Hospital, Cornell, Beth Israel Medical Center, Mount Sinai, Bellevue Hospital, Maimonides Hospital, Kings County Hospital and Coney Island Hospital.

In addition, there were administrators on hand from New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, City of New York Medicaid Managed Care Division, Bronx Health Plan, Healthcare Management System, Bronx Health Plan, Health First, Healthcare Management Systems, Catholic Charities, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Community Choice Health Plan.

The Kovner/Behrman Annual Event was made possible by a $50,000 starting endowment donated by Natalie Lieberman to NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in honor of her son Anthony Kovner and her parents – Percy and Eva Behrman. Mrs. Lieberman’s father was a general practitioner who graduated from NYU Medical Center. The 1999 Kovner/Behrman event was also sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, a philanthropic organization with the broad charge to enhance the common good. With the generous support of the Fund, the Wagner School is sponsoring the Wagner-Commonwealth Dialogue Series on a variety of health care topics; the Kovner/Behrman event was the second of a series of four dialogues. The sessions are intended to provide a forum for leaders in research, practice and policy making in the health sector to explore crucial issues together.

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