Departing HFMA chief saw rapid changes
Things are just getting interesting in healthcare finance, so why quit now? Richard Clarke said he has heard that often since announcing his retirement last week after 25 years as president and CEO of the 37,000-member, Westchester, Ill.-based Healthcare Financial Management Association.
Clarke, 62, will retire July 31, 2012; and although it’s true that significant changes are coming at a rapid pace, he said change has been a constant since he started at the HFMA in 1986. “It’s funny because when I originally took the job, I told the board I’d only stay for five years,” Clark said, and every five years or so, some major development reminded him that he was living during interesting times.
He started at the HFMA during the implementation of diagnosis-related groups. This was followed by the Clinton administration healthcare initiatives, the Balanced Budget Act, a financial crisis or two, and finally, the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Clarke said he has seen a lot of bad ideas that have helped keep an unsustainable system afloat. He added, though, that he’s optimistic that the implementation of accountable care—which rewards value over volume—can provide a framework for building a better healthcare system.
“Our members are very good actors in a bad play. The system stinks—our payment system is a major impediment to a transparent, value-driven and efficient system,” he said. “I think the concept of accountable care—not the Medicare version with ‘accountable care’ in capital letters—but holding provider organizations accountable for both quality and cost, putting value over volume, makes a lot of sense.”
Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group coalition of major employers, credits Clarke with outlining the business case for quality improvement and then advocating for it. “He made the business case, and then he structured HFMA—with a plethora of educational opportunities—to hammer home the core message that quality makes business sense,” Binder said.
Clarke said the concepts Binder referred to are included in the HFMA’s Value Project, which was launched last month. He said he’ll spend his remaining time at the organization rolling out that initiative as well as observing and helping to shape the emerging implementation of the reform law’s new regulations. Then, he said, it will be time for someone else to step in and lay a five-to 10year foundation for the future.
Clarke said he plans to spend his retirement doing more writing and teaching.