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Handicapping Healthcare Reform Is a Fool's Errand

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, June 26, 2009

Based on what I've seen and heard lately, many hospital leaders are spending a lot of time and effort focusing on the goings-on in Washington surrounding healthcare reform. I understand. It's big, scary, and generates a lot of press coverage.

We're doing a lot of that ourselves here at HealthLeaders Media. It's easy to understand why.

It's important and when Congress gets involved in your industry to such a degree, it's only smart and right to pay attention and to try to influence your legislators about how the different healthcare reform plans will likely affect your business. Logic says that Congressional action on healthcare reform this year has the potential to dramatically remake your business landscape, and if you're able to read the tea leaves, you'll be in a much better position to deal with the fallout from any legislation that finally ends up passing.

But handicapping the multitude of proposals is a fool's errand. You can't plan based on scary bills that may get shot down later in the legislative process. So don't spend so much time wondering "what if?" that you become myopic to planning for a future that includes a greater focus on outcomes and cost, two variables which any legislation will surely try to influence. Focusing on possible healthcare reform outcomes can be myopic and detrimental to the long-term health of your organization. Perhaps that should be a surgeon general's warning for hospital leaders, but I digress.

Why? The specter of healthcare "reform" portends many outcomes for healthcare providers, and when you hear about all the plans seeking greater value from healthcare, you translate all of that rhetoric into decreasing margins, tighter capital constriction, and closer scrutiny about your business practices. Your job is about to become more challenging. That's a fact. But allowing yourself, and by extension, your organization, to be whipped back and forth by the daily play-by-play about competing healthcare reform plans is a prescription for a headache, and it's a recipe for short-term, reactionary planning that won't yield the kind of results you're looking for.

Instead, perhaps it's better to focus on broad themes that will likely work in a reformed healthcare landscape and will serve your organization well regardless of what the final healthcare reform bill looks like.

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