Will Howorth | Nashville Business Journal
They say timing is everything, and I’m not sure there could have been a more exciting time for this year’s Leadership Health Care delegation to Washington, D.C.
On March 13 and 14, a group of more than 100 of Nashville’s emerging health care leaders traveled to the nation’s capital for informational sessions with key health policy experts, administration officials, health care trade groups and others. The trip occurred just one week after House Republicans introduced the American Health Care Act – their solution for replacing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. In addition to discussing the legislation’s pros and cons, delegates had the opportunity to hear real-time analysis and reactions from Washington insiders when the Congressional Budget Office released their scoring of the legislation on the afternoon of March 13.
To say the least, it was an exciting time to be in Washington and hear from individuals who will have a direct role in influencing if and how this and any other health care legislation moves forward – such as Tennessee congressional delegates Jim Cooper and Diane Black.
Here are a few key takeaways and highlights from the two-day event:
It’s going to be a big year for health policy.
Given the timing, you can probably guess the biggest topic of discussion at the delegation. We heard from individuals who were opposed to, those in support of, and some who were neutral on the value and impact of the AHCA legislation. From their impassioned comments and explanations of the complicated path the bill will follow, it’s clear there will be a lively (and likely heated) debate on health policy this year.
Though the House Republicans’ process so far indicates they’d like to usher the bill quickly through the approval process, the overarching message from delegation speakers was that there is much discussion and debate ahead. Several speakers, including former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, were adamant in their assertions that the legislation in its current form will not pass.
As U.S. Rep. Black said herself, “don’t memorize” the bill because it’s going to change. What will those changes be? How will our country’s health care policies change under the current Administration and Congress? The details, at this point, are anyone’s guess.
This administration is different.
In addition to the legislative maneuverings around health care, the other wild card for the industry comes straight from the Oval Office. Speakers remarked on the untraditional nature of President Donald Trump’s administration and how it may impact the health care industry.
For example, the administration’s slow movement in making key political appointments is leaving some departments and offices without clear leadership and direction. In fact, on the delegation’s second day of sessions, we heard from Dr. Patrick Conway, the deputy administrator for innovation and quality with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who had been serving as the CMS’s acting administrator while awaiting confirmation of Trump appointee Seema Verma. Verma was confirmed as CMS administrator on the first day of our delegation, March 13.
While Conway provided some of the most interesting commentary of the delegation – discussing successes of CMS alternative payment models and relatable personal stories – he was in the unenviable position of being asked to delicately forecast how Obama-era programs may change under his very “new boss.”
In addition, speakers discussed the president’s voracious media diet, personal use of Twitter and all-around “outsider” attitude and demeanor as indicators that a Washington system used to a particular style of executive branch leadership will be in for more surprises in the months and years ahead.
Nashville’s voice is heard.
While the most important aspect of the delegation is the opportunity to hear from high-caliber health care and policy experts, there’s also a tremendous value in how the delegation enables Nashville businesses and business leaders to have their voices heard in Washington.
During each session, delegates had the opportunity to introduce themselves and ask direct questions to speakers about the issues that matter to their businesses. In addition, many speakers were available for networking and discussion before and after sessions concluded, during the keynote dinner or the delegate breakfast on the following day. This gave delegates an opportunity to establish meaningful connections that may lead to productive dialogues for the future.
During his remarks to the delegation, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper called Leadership Health Care “one of the most exciting groups that comes to Washington and one of the most exciting groups in the country” because of the importance of solving health care challenges. He personally called on delegates to take action and engage with government officials to make their voices heard.
“We really need your ideas and energy, and your disruption,” he said.
Will Howorth is the vice president of strategic business growth at HCA Urgent Care and board chairman of Leadership Health Care