ACHE watches his­tory

There was much to dis­cuss at the ACHE congress

Modern Healthcare - - Editorial -

When peo­ple say “tim­ing is ev­ery­thing,” they need to point no fur­ther than last week’s Amer­i­can Col­lege of Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives an­nual Congress on Health­care Lead­er­ship as proof of the adage.

While the leaders of the $2.6 tril­lion health­care in­dus­try gath­ered in Chicago for four days of key­note speeches, in­for­ma­tive lec­tures, ed­u­ca­tion ses­sions and net­work­ing break­fasts, lunches, din­ners and re­cep­tions, the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama gave them all some­thing to talk about. Con­se­quently, the es­ti­mated 4,500 ex­ec­u­tives in at­ten­dance will never for­get where they were when health­care re­form be­came law and changed their jobs and the health­care de­liv­ery sys­tem for­ever. It also forced many a speaker to up­date his or her pre­sen­ta­tion.

“Yes, health­care re­form did pass last night so that you have more to talk about in be­tween ses­sions at the largest gath­er­ing of health­care ex­ec­u­tives in the world,” ACHE Pres­i­dent and CEO Thomas Dolan joked to a packed au­di­to­rium so large that it caused po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and com­men­ta­tor Stu­art Rothen­berg to ob­serve that its par­tic­i­pants might be seated in two dif­fer­ent ZIP codes.

Rothen­berg, a po­lit­i­cal hand­i­cap­per who is ed­i­tor and pub­lisher of the Rothen­berg Po­lit­i­cal Re­port, said the level of par­ti­san di­vide was ev­i­dent in the two par­ties’ po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated state­ments af­ter pas­sage of the re­form law.

“Let’s face it, we’re not go­ing to know for many months, many years, how all of this will play out,” Rothen­berg said. “Right now, Repub­li­cans are try­ing to con­vince the world that the sky is fall­ing, and Democrats say this is the best thing in the world. Don’t be­lieve ei­ther of them.”

Though he praised pas­sage of the land­mark health­care re­form leg­is­la­tion, the Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of ad­vo­cacy and pub­lic pol­icy, Richard Pol­lack, said the new law has a long way to go to sat­isfy all the con­cerns of the na­tion’s hos­pi­tals. Among the mea­sure’s short­com­ings, ac­cord­ing to Pol­lack, is the fact that mil­lions of peo­ple will still lack in­sur­ance cov­er­age un­der the bill and that the bill failed to in­clude “mean­ing­ful” li­a­bil­ity re­form. He also said the bill failed to ex­pand Medi­care grad­u­ate med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion slots to the ex­tent sought by the AHA, and it failed to ad­dress end-of-life is­sues.

Pol­lack urged the health­care ex­ec­u­tives in at­ten­dance to start shift­ing their mind­set from pas­sage to im­ple­men­ta­tion. Rules and reg­u­la­tions will have to be writ­ten to guide how such things as in­sur­ance ex­changes, value-based pur­chas­ing and price trans­parency will be­come op­er­a­tional in a re­formed health­care sys­tem.

The re­form bill will be “fixed and re­fined for years to come,” Pol­lack said. “Cer­tainly we will have our own leg­isla­tive ‘fix-it’ list.”

James Morone, an au­thor, lec­turer and chair­man of the Brown Uni­ver­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­ence depart­ment, said one of the most sur­pris­ing things about the health­care re­form leg­is­la­tion is that it con­tra­dicted the adage that “it takes a move­ment” to pass ma­jor so­cial leg­is­la­tion.

“That’s what’s so sur­pris­ing about this. The move­ment was on the other side,” Morone said. —David Burda, Joe Carl­son and

An­dis Robeznieks

ACHE Chair Christo­pher Van Gorder: “Our role in health­care re­form is to make it real.”

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