Health spending is increasing in the United States, but what steps are being taken to address this challenge? Join Health Affairs and the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) on September 11 for an important event, “Health Spending: Moving From Theory to Action,” which will convene thought leaders from across the health care sector. They will dig deeper into what’s driving health spending and how the U.S. system can move toward value-based solutions.

The event’s keynote and panel presentations will cover three main themes:

All of us face budget constraints, but optimizing health care outcomes is especially challenging.

Competing priorities – everything from education to public safety – are increasing pressure on states, employers and other payers to make sure that health care is delivered in a cost-effective way. Efforts to define and measure the cost-effectiveness of medical interventions and clinical services are being made as employers and payers attempt to keep health costs in check, but there isn’t a perfect equation for measuring value in the system. There’s a need for additional emphasis on efforts to reduce low value care and ensure the quality of every treatment and patient outcomes are part of the discussion. In a panel moderated by NPC Chief Science Officer and Executive Vice President Robert Dubois, speakers Otis Brawley, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Dan Ollendorf, director of the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health Care at Tufts Medical Center, Surya Singh, president of Singh HealthCare Advisors, and Elizabeth Mitchell, president and CEO, Pacific Business Group on Health, will discuss these issues.

We can learn a lot from states and local communities. North Carolina, in particular, is a laboratory for value-based payments.

Alan Weil, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, will lead a discussion about the steps that the North Carolina government and health payers are taking to enact large-scale value-based payment programs across its health benefits. The state is moving toward ensuring that 70% of all payments in state health programs are value-based, and the session will detail the risks – and the risk-management – associated with this transition. The conversation will take place between those in the thick of changes, including Patrick Conway, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, who will speak to the cooperation and shared responsibility that’s needed to accomplish this systematic shift in care delivery.

We need to do a better job addressing tough health spending questions.

The conference will force attendees to confront the reality of tradeoffs to efficiently address the unsustainable rate of health spending in the United States. What is society willing to pay? What must be left out? Under which circumstances can health spending be cost-effective and lead to improved health outcomes? Ceci Connolly, president and CEO of the Association of Community Health Plans, will also push attendees to tackle the questions that are hardest to ask. [See some of the tough questions that health care thought leaders need to address.]

The event builds on a multi-year effort launched 18 months ago at a standing-room only conference by Health Affairs and NPC to promote an evidence-based conversation about health spending. The project explores questions involving the level and growth rate of health spending, the distribution of spending, efforts to improve the value of care, and analysis of options for constraining health care costs. The project has produced content in the Health Affairs journal and blog, and includes the creation of the Council on Health Spending.

Registration for the event remains open, and a live video stream will be available. You can follow live tweets from the event at @Health_Affairs and @npcnow and join the conversation using the #HealthSpending hashtag.