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.
History (& speeches) rewritten
There was much to discuss at the ACHE congress
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
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