Improving Healthcare to Deliver Better Quality Care at Lower Cost

May 23, 2017

Improving our healthcare system to deliver higher quality care at lower cost is critically important to our nation’s long-term economic and fiscal well-being. The U.S. spends twice as much on healthcare as other advanced nations — often with outcomes that are no better. And healthcare represents 70 percent of the future growth in major entitlement spending, so there’s no viable solution to our debt problem that does not include healthcare reform. Healthcare is also a key economic issue that affects wages, growth, and opportunity. In this timely conversation, three renowned healthcare experts discussed the current prospects for healthcare reform in Congress, and also how innovations in delivery reform, payment reform, and data transparency can lead to better health outcomes at lower cost.

This interview with Sylvia Mathews Burwell, James C. Capretta, and Atul Gawande was conducted by Julie Rovner, Chief Washington Correspondent, Kaiser Health News, as part of the 2017 Fiscal Summit.


Sylvia Mathews Burwell

President-Designate, American University; 22nd U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Sylvia Mathews Burwell is American University’s 15th president and first woman president.

Burwell served as the 22nd secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from 2014 until the conclusion of President Obama’s second term. Before that, she was the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Her prior government experience includes deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, deputy chief of staff to the president, chief of staff to the secretary of the Treasury, and special assistant to the director of the National Economic Council.

Burwell served 11 years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, including roles as the chief operating officer and president of global development. After the Gates Foundation, Burwell was the president of the Walmart Foundation and ran their women’s economic empowerment efforts.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University and a BA in philosophy, policy, and economics from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

James C. Capretta

Resident Fellow and Milton Friedman Chair, American Enterprise Institute

James C. Capretta is a resident fellow and holds the Milton Friedman chair at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies health care, entitlements, and U.S. budgetary policy, as well as global trends in aging, health, and retirement programs.

Mr. Capretta spent more than 16 years in public service before joining AEI. As an associate director at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004, he was responsible for all health care, Social Security, welfare, and labor and education issues. Earlier, he served as a senior health policy analyst at the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and at the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means.

He has been widely published in newspapers, magazines, and trade journals.

Mr. Capretta has an MA in public policy studies from Duke University and a BA in government from the University of Notre Dame.

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH

Executive Director, Ariadne Labs

With four best-selling books — including Complications; Better; The Checklist Manifesto; and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End — Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is an accomplished surgeon, writer, and public health researcher who inspires clinicians, patients, families, and policy makers to re-examine their understanding of medicine.

Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is the founder and executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation at BWH and HSPH dedicated to reducing suffering worldwide through scalable solutions that drive better care at the most critical moments in people’s lives. Gawande is also the chair of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization focused on making surgery safer globally.

A staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998, Gawande is the winner of two National Magazine Awards, AcademyHealth’s Impact Award for highest research impact on healthcare, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Award for writing about science. He serves on the board of directors of the New America Foundation.

Julie Rovner

Chief Washington Correspondent, Kaiser Health News

Julie Rovner is the chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News. She joined KHN in 2014 after 16 years as health policy correspondent for NPR, where she helped lead the network’s coverage of the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

A noted expert on health policy issues, Rovner is the author of a critically-praised reference book Health Care Politics and Policy A-Z, now in its third edition. In 2005, she was awarded the National Press Foundation’s Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress for her coverage of the passage of the Medicare prescription drug law and its aftermath.

She has appeared numerous times on the PBS Newshour, C-SPAN, and many other national broadcasts.

Prior to NPR, Rovner covered health policy for National Journal’s CongressDaily and for Congressional Quarterly, among others. She has a degree in political science from University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.

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