Insights from LHC’s Annual Delegation to D.C.
Last month Leadership Health Care (LHC), an initiative of the Nashville Health Care Council, traveled to the nation’s capital with 100 industry leaders for two days of intensive meetings and briefings with Washington insiders.
The 2016 presidential race and King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court case regarding the legitimacy of federal tax subsidies in states that opted to use the federal exchange rather than create one of their own, were prevalent topics given the potential impact of each on the healthcare industry.
In the presidential race, keynote speaker David Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Report, said he couldn’t bet against Hillary Clinton if she runs. “She starts in a much stronger position than she did in 2008 against Barack Obama,” he noted. “On the Republican side, all the talk is about Jeb Bush at the current time, but Scott Walker (governor of Wisconsin) has really surged in the last month.”
Wasserman continued, “There’s no such thing as durable momentum in this era of the media environment and the feeding frenzy you see surround each candidate as they become the front-runner and have their turn in the spotlight.” However, he added, he thinks the race for the White House for Republicans comes down to Bush and a Midwest governor, most likely Walker.
Comments and speculation about King v. Burwell, which stems from five words in the massive ACA document calling for federal tax subsidies for individuals who purchase insurance through an “Exchange established by the State,” were plentiful considering the enormous implications for not only the 34 states directly involved but also the entirety of the Affordable Care Act moving forward. The high court’s decision is expected this summer.
Looking at 2016, Wasserman said that among top issues for voters – economy, foreign policy/terrorism, and healthcare – polls currently show healthcare in third place. However, he said, “If the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare in King v. Burwell, this issue going to be thrust right back in the spotlight in a bigger way than Congress is dealing with right now.”
Jenni Bradley, director of Talent Development, for the Nashville Health Care Council who has oversight of LHC, also noted, “King v. Burwell was a topic broached by every speaker throughout the agenda. The conversation really centered around what would happen in the aftermath of that decision.”
While important, the SCOTUS case and presidential race were certainly not the only subjects discussed in depth. Baxter Lee, vice president of Finance for Emdeon, said the annual delegation is a great opportunity to take the pulse of what’s happening in Washington on a number of key issues.
Making his third trip, the LHC board member noted the speakers provided insight into anticipated policy changes that impact the healthcare industry and discussed how those decisions could potentially flow down and affect business.
“The delegates represented a broad swath of the different sectors of healthcare, and the programming reflected that,” he said. “There was something for everyone among the speakers who made it very relevant for all the attendees.”
Bradley said the agenda for this 13th Delegation to D.C. was particularly strong. “We were very intentional in setting up the flow,” she said. “We started with Chris Frates of CNN who gave a very general and broad overview of what’s going on in Washington. Each speaker, as we moved through the agenda, got more and more specific about the nuances of healthcare policy.”
Bradley said ACA enrollment was a topic discussed by both Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, and by Meena Seshamani, MD, director of the Office of Health Reform for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Bradley said Filipic talked about the lessons learned from the initial open enrollment period for 2014 and this latest round of 2015 enrollments. “They are able to now have a pattern to track,” Bradley noted of having two years of data.
“Half of the 11.7 million Americans that are enrolled in federal or state marketplaces are new this year,” Bradley said of statistics presented by Seshamani. “She talked about how HHS is educating the new enrollees on how and where to use their coverage.”
With Emdeon focus on health information technology, Baxter said he particularly enjoyed hearing from HHS Acting Assistant Secretary and National Coordinator for HIT Karen DeSalvo, MD. Baxter said the question on everyone’s mind is – “How do we unlock all the data that has been gathered through electronic medical records to share it among practitioners for more coordinated care to impact quality and move to a more value-based payment system?”
He continued, “Will there be a need to change some of the privacy rules related to HIPAA to increase the ability to share that information? Privacy was a question that came up a couple of times as most of the speakers brought up interoperability and the sharing of data as a key to advancing the healthcare industry.”
While the delegates make the trip to hear from Washington insiders, Bradley said the educational component is really a two-way street considering the interactive nature of the programming. “Our delegates and speakers have a relationship that flows between Nashville and D.C.,” she said.
Bradley noted David Wasserman had been with the group a couple of years ago and was so well received that he was asked back this year. “The first thing he did was come up to me and say, ‘I’m so glad to be back with this group again. They ask such great questions and are engaged and smart,'” Bradley said.
In addition to building those ties, Bradley said another important element of the trip is the networking opportunity among attendees. The packed schedule intentionally carves out time for the delegates to get to know colleagues in different sectors of healthcare and make new connections that can be brought back home to Nashville.
Deeming the 2015 trip a success, Baxter concluded, “This is probably one of the most unique opportunities to hear from thought leaders and policymakers about big trends and initiatives that could change the landscape of healthcare moving forward. If you’re a decision-maker in a healthcare business, I think it’s absolutely valuable to be a part of that.”