Premier, the San Diego-based not-for-profit hospital alliance, has hired a veteran healthcare policy advocate to ramp up its Washington lobbying presence.
Blair Childs, 50, officially took over last week as the senior vice president of public affairs, a newly created position. Childs is in charge of Premier's political advocacy and communications and is poised to help Premier become a larger player in the healthcare political field.
Herb Kuhn, now the director of CMS' Center for Medicare Management, served as the vice president for advocacy at Premier until 2004. Though Margaret Reagan filled Kuhn's position at Premier, she'll now be reporting to Childs.
It's not as if the alliance, whose 200 system owners operate 1,500 hospitals, isn't an influential and known player in Washington. For example, Premier is conducting the first national pay-for-performance hospital inpatient project with the CMS.
But Childs believes that's only an example of what Premier can do with hospital's aggregated performance numbers.
"The ability to collect data and use it to improve the quality of care is very important," he says. "And Premier is in the sweet spot."
In the past 15 years, Childs has played a role in shaping the healthcare political landscape in Washington.
Perhaps his most noteworthy accomplishment came when he was working with the Health Insurance Association of America from 1992 to 1995. Childs helped score a major victory for insurers by serving as the executive director of the Coalition for Health Insurance Choices, the sponsor of the "Harry and Louise" campaign that helped derail the Clinton administration's healthcare reform plan.
Childs is modest about the work he did for the insurers and credits an advertising agency for coming up with the "Harry and Louise" spots. He is somewhat more forthcoming about his most recent job, revamping the medical device companies' trade association, now called the Advanced Medical Technology Association or AdvaMed.
Childs worked with the group from 1999-2005, helped expand its annual budget to $25 million from $9 million and was instrumental in the association changing its name from the Health Industry Manufacturers Association, he says.
"People all seem to know what AdvaMed is," he says. "I don't think many people knew what HIMA was."
Childs says after the reorganization it was time to move on from AdvaMed. An AdvaMed spokesman says it's not looking to replace Childs, who served a variety of roles under the title of vice president of strategic planning and implementation.
Although Childs is happy with the work he did at AdvaMed, he doesn't think Premier needs to go through the same re-branding process.
"We needed to make a lot of changes" at HIMA, he says. "I don't think Premier faces that same set of challenges."