Leavitt described a "four cornerstones" plan, first outlined by President Bush in an August executive order. It calls for employers to prioritize four criteria when they purchase health insurance for their employees: availability of health care information technology; quality of care measures; health care price information; and incentives for high-quality, cost-effective care.

The U.S. government is applying leverage for the plan by making support for it a requirement of any U.S. employer that conducts business with Medicare, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

"I don't think we have health care system in the U.S.; we have more of a huge, robust health sector," said Leavitt, adding that the government was willing to work with local governments and the private sector to create a more efficient, integrated system that theoretically would slow skyrocketing costs.

At a similar business-backed event in San Diego later that day, Leavitt helped boost Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's heath care reform proposal by announcing that the Bush administration would support most of the governor's request for $3.7 billion in additional federal funding needed to increase Medi-Cal, the state's insurance program for the poor.

Amgen Inc., Northrup Grumman Corp., Raley's and Safeway Stores are among California companies that have signed on to the Bush's four cornerstones plan, which Schwarzenegger said California also would support. Most of the region's largest health care and employee benefits organizations, including WellPoint/Blue Cross of California, Kaiser Permanente, HealthCare Partners Medical Group and HealthNet Inc. also have signed the pledge.

While Leavitt lauded California for being farther ahead on the technology front than other states, recent setbacks in several high-profile medical records initiatives demonstrate the challenges the industry will face implementing a national program.

Staff reporter Deborah Crowe can be reached at (323) 549-5255, ext. 232, or at dcrowe@labusinessjournal.com .


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