Attendees at the 40th annual membership meeting of the American Hospital Association in Washington were assured Monday that healthcare reform is on track on Capitol Hill. But the message underlying that prediction is somewhat bittersweet: Hospitals are likely facing a future with a new definition of success that entails "doing less but producing greater results for patients," said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock at the opening session.
"Let's be realistic: A balanced final reform package will be a mixed bag of gain and pain for everyone. We [undoubtedly] will applaud much in it—particularly if it moves us closer to an affordable available coverage for all," Umbdenstock said.
"But without a doubt, some [reforms] will scare the pants off us because [they] will challenge us to carve out new relationships with other providers and reorder the way we use resources," he added. "I suspect everything in it will compel us to speed up the pace of change at a time when economic conditions are already requiring hospitals to change in ways we might rather not."
Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, told AHA attendees that hospitals likely will have differences on some issues, but "I think we can agree that real reform is in everyone's best interest."
She said that during the time leading up to the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the White House has been listening to hospitals—including providing support for Medicaid under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and encouraging the implementation of health information technology in hospitals and physicians’ offices.
This is a time when hospitals are finding times are tough: in addition to seeing the financial health of many hospitals sharply decline (as seen in a new AHA survey), many hospitals are shouldering a large proportion of uninsured care. In 2008, more than $35 billion in uncompensated care was provided nationwide,” DeParle said. A system left unchecked will tie up 25% of our economic output by 2025. "It cannot continue."
She outlined "simple practices and principles"—several highlighting hospitals—that she said the Obama administration wanted to see in final healthcare reform legislation. They are:
DeParle, who did not take questions from the audience following her presentation, did not specifically address the issue of creating a government-run health insurance plan.