Healthcare Execs Reflect on Recent LHC Delegation to D.C.
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, networks with delegates following the “What’s on the Horizon for Providers and Payers?” panel discussion.
Hopeful … frustrating … engaging … challenging … contentious — members of the recent Leadership Health Care (LHC) delegation to Washington, D.C. found many ways to describe the prevailing tone among lawmakers and policy insiders on the topic of healthcare reform. When it came to summing up the 10th
Anniversary Delegation to D.C., however, one word would do … insightful
Go online to www.NashvilleMedicalNews.com to link to a Q&A with Leadership Health Care Director Judith Byrd, which recently ran in our sister publication, NashvillePost.com.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to be in Washington talking to the key decision-makers at an important time for healthcare,” said first-time attendee James Grimes, chief accounting officer for Ardent Health Solutions.
Baxter Lee, who was also making his first LHC trip, noted, “I thought the lineup of experts that Judith (Byrd) and her team at Leadership Health Care put together was very impressive.” Lee, director of corporate development for Emdeon and the 2012 LHC scholarship recipient for the D.C. delegation, added, “The meetings and speakers were all of the people who are truly at the center of the conversation and debate over healthcare. It was insightful and timely.”
For Melissa Puri, account manager for Healthways, the late March trip to the nation’s capital was her fourth delegation. She added that since first attending, she has not skipped a year. “It’s the one place where you get information regarding healthcare policy that you’re not going to get anywhere else. Most of us spend our days working in the details, and it’s an opportunity to see how policy is formed and the back-room thinking.”
Puri continued, “One year you’ll hear policy-in-the-making, and the next year it’s in place or being implemented. I like the continuity of going year-to-year.”
Grimes was pleased to see how involved the entire Tennessee legislative delegation is in the national conversation. “They obviously understand how important healthcare is to Nashville and the state, as well as the country,” he remarked. “I think it’s important for the Nashville community to be actively engaged in discussing our perspectives on these key decisions they are making,” he added.
Lee concurred, noting, “Congressman Jim Cooper was particularly insightful, especially with his economics background. He has a really strong grasp on the macro trends that drive the economy … and healthcare in particular.”
While the roadmap to reform clearly varies by partisan viewpoints, Puri said it was pretty evident that most people recognize the current healthcare system is truly broken. “We are beyond tweaking of the dials. We need systemic reform. I heard several speakers say, ‘Armageddon was yesterday,’” she noted.
Puri added, “One quote that really stuck with me was from Jonathan Bush with athenahealth. He said, ‘The measurement of quality is the shortest distance between say and do.”
Unfortunately, many of the Washington insiders agreed a lot more ‘say’ than ‘do’ would happen in the coming months leading up to national elections. “I was most sad to see that almost everybody expects 2012 to be a lost year,” said Lee. “With the situation we’re in, it’s sad to have to wait for movement until the next political cycle.”
Grimes added it really brought home the enormity of the scope of issues that must be dealt with almost immediately following the elections.
“We’re definitely living in interesting times for healthcare,” he noted. Grimes said in addition to the broad perspective, he found much of the information pertinent to Ardent’s daily operations. “We’re impacted by just about every type of legislation on healthcare reform on both the provider and payer side,” he said, explaining that in addition to hospitals and physician employees, his company also has a health plan with more than 200,000 members in the state of New Mexico.
Lee noted, “My job definitely requires me to have a good understanding of both the macro and micro trends of healthcare.” He added that Emdeon took three team members to D.C. this year in recognition of how important it is to stay current on the state of affairs among policymakers.
Puri said the discussion surrounding reform and the regulatory environment “helps me get in the mind of my customers and see the challenges they face.”
The delegates also agreed the networking opportunities afforded by the trip were as important as the insights gained. “We brought a hundred different people from Nashville from across all aspects of the healthcare industry together,” Lee said. Puri added it’s a time when the local executives are truly away from everything. “You really get to know each other and share ideas and information,” she said.
The trio universally praised LHC and the Nashville Health Care Council for putting together programming that fosters a deeper understanding of the industry, encourages collaboration, and increases the local industry’s national and international visibility.
Although it was a first trip for Grimes and Lee, they both said it wouldn’t be the last. “After going, I definitely want to make sure I can go to these in the future because I think they are important,” Grimes said. Lee agreed and added that he would also love to take part in a future Wall Street delegation.
A Full Agenda
Leadership Health Care, an initiative of the Nashville Health Care Council, has become expert in the ability to pack a great deal of information into a two-day trip. During the 10th Anniversary Delegation to D.C., participants heard from a broad range of Washington policymakers, thought leaders and industry insiders.
The impressive list of experts included:
§ Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and special advisor to President Barack Obama,
§ Sheila Burke, senior public policy advisor for Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz,
§ Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog reporter and dean emeritus of the Supreme Court Press Corps,
§ Jonathan Bush, co-founder and CEO of athenahealth,
§ Rich Deem, senior vice president for advocacy for the American Medical Association,
§ Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans,
§ Charles N. Kahn, III, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals,
§ U.S. Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN),
§ Andrew Shin, acting director of stakeholder engagement for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and
§ Health Legislative Assistants Elizabeth Falcone (Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA), Ruth McDonald (Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN), Anne Oswalt (Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN), and Monica Popp (U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce).