A high-profile White House summit on health reform earned plaudits from a wide swath of industry groups, federal lawmakers and everyday citizens who attended, but also sparked a call for more details before full support can be offered.
Still waiting for details
Summit draws praise, but debate is just beginning
There are a lot of positive vibes, but obviously theres still a lot of debate that needs to be developed, said Richard Umbdenstock, president and chief executive officer of the American Hospital Association. They really didnt give us any clear indication when the details would come out.
President Barack Obama, who convened the discussion, urged attendees to stay involved, and said that congressional movement on legislation would be the next phase, but stressed again the need for an inclusive process. Ive got some very strong ideas and the White House will be providing some guideposts and guidelines about what we think we can afford to do, how we think its best to do it, but we dont have a monopoly on good ideas, Obama said.
To be sure, a consensus has emerged across all interest groups that the current fractured healthcare system must be changed and federal lawmakers in Washington have begun to lay a path to reform.
The primary concern for hospitals and other provider groups, however, centers on potential Medicare payment cuts that would then be used to help pay for broader reform efforts. Under a budget blueprint released by Obama in late February (March 2, p. 8), its clear that providers would have to make some sacrifice on the pay front, though howand by how muchis still uncertain.
Umbdenstock said that cuts would devastate hospitals under current economic conditions. First of all, now is not the time for cuts, he said. Right now, hospitals are under enormous stress.
Umbdenstock points to a domino effect that happened when the economy weakened and the effects trickled down to the nations hospitals in the form of a higher number of uninsured patients and higher default rates. Clearly, going forward, we understand that there will be some sort of payment reform and some sort of realignment of financial incentives, Umbdenstock said. But getting from here to there is a major concern, especially as demand and lack of payment escalate.
Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, told summit attendees that members of his group would contribute to the reform effort even if it means reduced reimbursement. Were ready to do that as long as its fair and reasonable, he said.
Earlier in the week, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a key player on health reform on Capitol Hill, said a legislative package would, in part, focus on delivery system reforms. By definition, that would hurt provider payments. Such reforms would focus on aligning payments with value, he said.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.