Here’s to bet­ter health, se­cu­rity

En­tire health­care com­mu­nity must work to­gether to en­sure top-qual­ity care

Modern Healthcare - - OPINIONS COMMENTARY -

The U.S. Supreme Court’s his­toric de­ci­sion to up­hold the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act lifts a heavy bur­den from mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who need ac­cess to health­care cov­er­age. The prom­ise of cov­er­age—the cor­ner­stone of any eq­ui­table ap­proach to health­care—may now be­come a re­al­ity for them, their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.

But the de­ci­sion also leaves it up to each state to de­cide whether to par­tic­i­pate in ex­panded Med­i­caid cov­er­age, and that pro­longs the un­cer­tainty for a yet-to-be-de­ter­mined num­ber of peo­ple who might have qual­i­fied for cov­er­age. Given the sig­nif­i­cant fed­eral fi­nan­cial sup­port that will be avail­able to states that opt in, we hope that the prom­ise of cov­er­age will be fully re­al­ized.

Lack of in­surance cov­er­age has con­se­quences for in­di­vid­u­als, their fam­i­lies and so­ci­ety at large that go far be­yond the ob­vi­ous—lost health and longevity. It pre­cip­i­tates lost work­place pro­duc­tiv­ity; fi­nan­cial stress on in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties; and un­cer­tainty for health­care providers. The Af­ford­able Care Act is an im­per­fect law and does not of­fer cov­er­age to ev­ery Amer­i­can, but it sub­stan­tially in­creases the num­ber of peo­ple who can look for­ward to en­joy­ing bet- ter health and se­cu­rity. It also puts in place de­liv­ery sys­tem re­forms that bet­ter align provider in­cen­tives to im­prove care co­or­di­na­tion and qual­ity and re­duce costs.

In 2008, the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion made “Health cov­er­age for all, paid for by all” a lead ele­ment in Health for Life, our road map to bet­ter, safer, more ef­fi­cient and af­ford­able health­care and a health­ier Amer­ica. Other AHA re­form goals are a fo­cus on well­ness; the most ef­fi­cient, af­ford­able care; the high­est qual­ity care; and the best in­for­ma­tion.

The court’s de­ci­sion means that hos­pi­tals now have much-needed clar­ity to con­tinue on the path toward trans­for­ma­tion en­vi­sioned in Health for Life. But trans­form­ing the de­liv­ery of health­care will take much more than the strike of a gavel or stroke of a pen. It calls for the en­tire health­care com­mu­nity to con­tinue to work to­gether, along with pa­tients and pur­chasers, to im­ple­ment bet­ter co­or­di­nated, high-qual­ity care.

It also calls for co­op­er­a­tion at the fed­eral level. Among the most-press­ing chal­lenges still fac­ing hos­pi­tals are the high cost of the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, equip­ment, de­vices and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals; the strug­gle to at­tract and train enough doc­tors, nurses and other care­givers; meet­ing the needs of the grow­ing num­ber of se­niors and other pa­tients with mul­ti­ple chronic ill­nesses; un­der­pay­ment from gov­ern­ment health pro­grams that shifts costs to em­ploy­ers and other pa­tients; pro­vid­ing care for the many pa­tients who re­main unin­sured or have in­ad­e­quate health cov­er­age; and com­ply­ing with in­creas­ing reg­u­la­tory and payer re­quire­ments.

As Congress looks for ways to ad­dress our na­tion’s debt and deficit, hos­pi­tals will sup­port a bal­anced na­tional strat­egy and will re­mind our elected lead­ers that ad­di­tional cuts to Medi­care and Med­i­caid fund­ing for hos­pi­tal ser­vices would mean longer wait times for care; fewer doc­tors, nurses and other care­givers; less pa­tient ac­cess to the lat­est treat­ments and tech­nol­ogy; and a slower trans­for­ma­tion of the way we de­liver health­care.

Richard Umb­den­stock is pres­i­dent and CEO of the Amer­i­can

Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion.

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