As recently as last year, nearly 50 million Americans didn't have health insurance. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this has started to change. Beginning January 1 of this year, millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands in the Philadelphia region, have gained access to health insurance for the first time.

But the reform law is just a first step. The U.S. health care system still faces significant challenges — first among them, inconsistent quality and costs that continue to rise. These problems are so large and complex they cannot be addressed with yesterday's solutions.

In fact, finding sustainable solutions to raising the quality and lowering the cost of health care   requires a level of change and innovation that the law simply does not provide. Fortunately, this region has all the right components to create the health care innovations needed to tackle these challenges: world class universities, renowned teaching hospitals, talented and dedicated physicians, a strong health and life sciences economy, and an active entrepreneurial community.

Could Philadelphia harness these resources to deal with challenges in health care – and become the Silicon Valley of health care innovation?  We think the answer is yes.

To begin transforming the Philadelphia area into a national magnet for health care innovation, Independence Blue Cross has launched the Independence Blue Cross Center for Health Care Innovation. At this 5,000-square foot center in downtown Philadelphia, we will work with our associates and other leaders in health care to innovate, collaborate, and implement path-finding new concepts in health care.

For example, take DreamIt Health. In 2012, IBC and Penn Medicine partnered with DreamIt Ventures to launch DreamIt Health Philadelphia, the region's first health care accelerator to attract promising, path finding health care start-ups to our region. DreamIt nourished 10 such start-ups from all over the country right here in Philadelphia, with $50,000 in seed funding, mentoring, collaborative office space, and opportunities to meet with potential investors and customers.

As another step towards transforming our region into the Silicon Valley of health care innovation, we have introduced a Strategic Innovation Portfolio through which we will invest up to $50 million in health related venture funds and early stage companies, such as the start-ups nurtured by the DreamIt Health.

The leadership in Philadelphia's health care community has also embraced the potential of our region for innovation. Under the leadership of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, a new working group has been established, the Health Care Innovation Task Force, an offshoot of the CEO Council for Growth initiative of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The task force's primary goal: harness the talents of the region's top health care leaders to leverage the region's existing strengths to further health care innovation.

All the ingredients are right here to make Philadelphia a national hub for health care innovation. As reform moves swiftly forward, one thing is certain; our nation is facing historic change in health care. With change comes opportunity, and through the Center, our investment portfolio, and collaboration with the region's health care leaders, we hope to inspire dialogue, further champion health care entrepreneurism in our region, and act as a catalyst for innovations that will finish the work started by health care reform and lead to superior care at lower costs.

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