LHC in D.C.: Frontline Perspectives on Healthcare Advocacy
Nashville healthcare leaders hear from policy experts on 2022 priorities and beyond
Editor’s note: This is the second post from the Nashville Health Care Council’s 2022 Leadership Health Care Delegation to Washington, D.C. See the first post here.
Following a lively keynote dinner discussion with The Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter to conclude the first day of sessions, Leadership Health Care launched the second day of its delegation to Washington, D.C., with informational sessions from administration officials and members of prominent healthcare trade organizations. The day began with an advocacy panel including American Hospital Association Group Vice President of Public Policy Molly Smith; America’s Health Insurance Plans Executive Vice President of Product Employer and Commercial Policy Jeanette Thornton; and American Medical Association Senior Vice President of Advocacy Todd Askew.
Panelists discussed their top policy priorities, including affordability, prescription drug pricing, protecting Medicare Advantage, the financial stability of hospitals, the workforce crisis, reforming and stabilizing Medicare payment process, telehealth, physician practice and more. On the issues of price transparency, consolidation and interoperability, all agreed the solutions are not as simple as we think.
“We absolutely support price transparency for individuals looking to plan their care. Consumers are facing much higher costs through high deductible health plans these days. Our members get it and are trying to help consumers with solutions such as sophisticated cost calculators,” Smith said. “But some policies have missed the mark. Some should be rescinded and others should be retained and adjusted with reasonable timelines and solutions. The data dumps of negotiated rates take a huge amount of time, effort and resources and are too complex for patients. Individual cost estimates, on the other hand, can be really valuable. We need to double down on technology solutions and bring everyone to the table to figure out how to do this right and who is responsible for what.”
Thornton added, “It’s the difference between taking a bumper sticker and translating to what actually happens. How do you take something that polls well and is a great talking point and put it into practice?”
Delegates heard quick hits from Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) – a regular presence at the signature Leadership Health Care Event – who addressed pertinent national and Tennessee-specific issues including rural hospital closures, veteran care, workforce shortages and Medicare and Medicaid insolvency.
Affirming Monday’s telehealth discussion, Blackburn emphasized the importance of expanding broadband internet access to unserved communities, supporting rural hospitals with technology and rewriting HIPAA as it relates to digital privacy to strengthen telehealth.
“Issues like healthcare access and a focus on wellness instead of illness won’t be solved with bureaucrats in Washington. They’ll be solved by innovators in Nashville,” Blackburn said.
“This town manages crisis to crisis. What we need is more people with business acumen serving and a conversation to look at the long-term. Stop-gap funding is not helpful at all,” Hagerty said. “I’m looking for and have an open door to measures that don’t require a messy legislation process to implement.”
Cooper said it’s “easy to take the cheap shots” but that the U.S. is “not on the right track” and “making gargantuan mistakes,” specifically regarding federal healthcare spending.
“This is the great anomaly. You can be born in America and promised social security and Medicare, and we have no idea how to pay for it,” he said. “In fact, all we really know is both programs start to bust in the relatively soon future and we’re doing nothing about it.”
He urged leaders in the room to create impactful and meaningful solutions. “Democracy should address the people’s issues and these policy questions that address human health – yours and that of your friends and neighbors – need better solutions,” he said.
In the final address, lead delegate Paul Keckley said the complex, nonadaptive U.S. healthcare system is far from being one that delivers the type of value it promotes.
“What I hope is a lasting result of your being here is not just that you network with great people, but that during your c-suite and board meetings, you reflect on and start asking questions about the day after tomorrow. We’re not thinking long term. We’re iterating what we did yesterday and tweaking it a little bit,” he said. “Nashville is so sector specific and values profit over purpose that we can’t see the end game. My ambition would be that Nashville be known for system-specific solutions and LHC becomes the bridge between healthcare and policy.”