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SALT LAKE CITY - Nearly 500 business, community, education, and government leaders gathered in Salt Lake City today to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive plan that will guide Utah's health system reform efforts over the next several years.  

Governor Gary R. Herbert convened the state's first Health Innovation Summit and encouraged attendees to help fill in the details of a health plan that will decrease costs and increase access and quality.

"I've brought you here today because you represent the best and the brightest minds from around our state, and collectively, I believe we can create a Utah Solution for our unique health care challenges," Governor Herbert told attendees during his morning keynote address.  "It's imperative we act now to find our own solutions rather than having Washington dictate solutions to us."

Utah has established itself as a national leader in health system reform thanks to innovations such as the Utah Health Insurance Exchange, the All Payer Claims Database, the Clinical Health Information Exchange, and the state's efforts to reform the way its Medicaid program is administered.

The Governor noted that despite those successes, more than 300,000 Utahns are uninsured and lack affordable access to health care.  He challenged attendees to help draft a plan that incorporates his guiding principles: Respecting free-market principles; encouraging individual responsibility; fostering public-private partnerships; limiting government intervention; using taxpayer resources wisely; and, ensuring state-based solutions.

Former Governor and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt addressed the importance of state-based solutions during his lunchtime keynote address.  

"Utah established itself as an early leader in health system reform, thanks to innovations like the Utah Health Insurance Exchange," Leavitt said.  "It's critical the state, and all other states for that matter, continue to vigorously pursue new innovations and solutions.  Failure to do so on the part of the states will be the equivalent of rolling out the welcome mat for the federal government and its one-size-fits-all approach."

Prior to Secretary Leavitt's remarks, Summit participants heard from Utah CEOs on balancing the health and wellness of their employees with today's increasing health care costs.  Scott Hymas, CEO of RC Willey, discussed innovation approaches his company is taking in order to deliver health care to its employees.

"We had to introduce a culture of accountability into our organization," Hymas said.  "So we opened an on-site clinic for associates where they build a relationship and trust with their doctor, which gives them an incentive to change their lifestyles."

The Summit will conclude later this afternoon with a series of panel discussions designed to produce specific and concrete strategies that will feed into the governor's long-term health plan.  The panels will be made up of more than 100 individuals representing a broad spectrum of interests.  

Each panel will target a specific area of interest, including payment reform, cost containment, health workforce, and health information technology.  The panels will continue to meet over the next several months, ultimately delivering the specifics details that will fill in the framework of the Governor's Health Plan.

"We are not here to simply discuss these challenges and then return to our daily lives," Governor Herbert told the panelists.  "Your participation is a commitment to the people of Utah that you will carry on the work you start here today and see it through to a solution that will improve the lives and health of your fellow citizens."

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