Council News

September 14, 2011

Frist, Berwick discuss roles of government, business in health care forum (Nashville Business Journal)

Frist, Berwick discuss roles of government, business in health care forum (Nashville Business Journal)
by Rick Johnston | Sep 14, 2011

The Nashville Health Care Council today hosted former Sen. Bill Frist and Donald Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for what Frist called the beginning of an “honest dialogue” between the government and those involved in the health care industry.

Berwick praised the Nashville health care sector, given the mix of for-profit and not-for-profit health care businesses. He also called the local community “highly entrepreneurial” and one that seeks to “do well by doing good.” He also praised the potential of the local community, comparing its potential to affect change to a locomotive.

“In Nashville, if you attach (the community) to a train called ‘better care, better health, lower cost,’ Washington wouldn’t matter. You could pull it off here, and that’s what excites me,” Berwick said.

He also said that the true change in the industry will bubble up on the more regional level.

Other points of interest from the discussion:

  • Berwick said cost-cutting is not the end-all, be-all solution for the industry, especially since it should be cutting costs, not things. “How do you lower costs? Don’t buy the thing you want, don’t get what you want. That’s how you lower costs in your family’s budget. It looks obvious that cutting things is the way to get lower costs. That’s the obvious answer, it just happens to be wrong in health care.”
  • When it comes to the impact of policy on the health care system, Frist said that change will come not by “overdoing it on policy,” but by being strategic with policy with an aim to “make things better.”
  • Berwick called the Affordable Care Act and the idea of coverage for all “American,” bringing it back to small businesses, saying that “small businesses shouldn’t have to struggle with this commitment to cover everyone.”
  • Frist cited diminishing support for the Affordable Care Act based on polling data and asked Berwick how that impacts his job in implanting the system. Berwick countered by saying the key to success and getting people on board is more education, because “it brings good things to people.”
  • Berwick said of TennCare and its role in a future exchange for residents that “states that have a track record in the past of doing something creative are going to have a leg up on others.”
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