New England States to Collaborate on Key Health Policy Issues

States share a common set of problems and issues emerging from rapid changes in health care markets and regulatory environments. For states that share borders, economies, and health care markets, why not collaborate, instead of working on these issues separately?

That was one of the takeaways from a 2017 meeting sponsored by the Milbank Memorial Fund and the New England States Consortium Systems Organization (NESCSO), a non-profit corporation of six New England Health and Human Services agencies and the University of Massachusetts Medical School that seeks to foster communication and collaboration between its members.

After the 2017 meeting, conference participants from some of the states—including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont—formed four workgroups. Each workgroup was charged with exploring opportunities for interstate collaboration in specific areas of interest—Certificate of Need reform and hospital regulatory issues, improving the value of community benefits reports, data-sharing opportunities, and primary care investments.

“Insurers operate in multiple markets. Health care systems in one state are acquiring hospitals and practices in another.  Interstate collaboration is key,” says Christopher Koller, president of the Milbank Memorial Fund. “Regional issues demand regional solutions.”

Earlier this month, at a second meeting in which the National Academy of State Health Policy joined the Fund and NESCSO, participants in the workgroups reported on their progress—specifically in areas that demonstrated the most promise for interstate or cross-state collaboration. One area that has shown particular headway is primary care investments. Read about that workgroup’s activity.

“Both the Fund and NESCSO are committed to working with states to promote collaboration whenever possible,” said Koller. “Hopefully, working together, we will continue to make progress in our goals to improve health care services and improve the health of our populations.”

“NESCSO and the Milbank Memorial Fund share common goals,” added Elena Nicolella, executive director of NESCSO. “Both foster communication and collaboration through information sharing and joint projects. It is the goal of both organizations to support state health and human services policymakers and to identify system needs by providing a framework for knowledge exchange that results in population health improvements.”