“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

– Winston Churchill, 1942

On the heels of the 7th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), House Republican leadership abruptly withdrew the American Health Care Act – their plan for repealing and replacing the ACA – from a long-promised floor vote. Many of us breathed a (brief) sigh of relief, particularly for the 24 million Americans who could have lost their health care coverage if this bill had been enacted.

But even as we celebrate the integral role consumers – including many older adults and people with disabilities – played in defeating the bill, the work to improve health care is as urgent and pressing as ever. Now that we’ve reached what we hope is the “end of the beginning,” here are three things we’re doing here at the Center to create a more person-centered health care system:

Identify and disseminate innovative models of care.

There has been tremendous progress in the development and rollout of innovative models of care that improve health and outcomes, often while saving money at the same time. For example, Massachusetts’ Community Support Program for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness (CSPECH) provides supportive services to help people obtain and stay in housing. The benefits in quality of life and improved health have resulted in annual per-person net savings of up to $7,013. This year, the Center will highlight innovations that are person-centered, responsive to the needs of the community and built with consumer input in a series of publications we’re calling, “What Works.”

Build a network of consumers who can drive health care innovation.

Consumers have a unique and critical role to play in ensuring that health innovation efforts result in care that is oriented around the needs of the people served. As such, the Center recently awarded a series of grants, with more on the way, to help state consumer advocacy organizations build out a base of consumers – particularly older adults, people with disabilities and those from communities of color – who can drive person-centered care innovation in their states. Over the next year and supported by one-on-one technical assistance provided by the Center, our grantees plan to reach out to 22,000 consumers, sign up roughly 2,000 consumers to engage with our partners and develop 90-100 new consumer leaders who can advance health care innovation.

Stand up for person-centered care.

Despite the AHCA’s late March collapse in the House, I expect that there will continue to be threats to comprehensive, person-centered care. For one thing, there may be more attempts at “repeal and replace”. But even short of repeal, threats might come in the form of policies that limit eligibility for and/or complicate enrollment into coverage, increase financial barriers for accessing care, take away support for innovative care models, or reduce services (for example, non-emergency medical transportation) that we know are critical for health and which are cost-effective, too. As new proposals come forward, we will assess them through the lens of whether they will improve health, particularly for people with complex health and social needs, and we will continue to sound the alarm about programs that co-opt the language of person-centeredness to instead impose policies that hurt the most vulnerable.

While March 24, 2017 perhaps marked the end of one chapter in the history of health care policy in the United States, it is certainly not the end of the journey to improve health care. We have much work ahead and I look forward to sharing this journey and its inspirations, challenges and, hopefully, celebrations as we move forward.

What’s the one thing you’d change about the health system tomorrow to make it more patient-centered? Tweet us @ccehi and share your thoughts!