On March 14–15, emids joined a delegation of 100 members of Leadership Health Care (LHC), an initiative of the Nashville Health Care Council, in Washington, D.C., for an inside look at the latest healthcare policy developments inside the Beltway and their expected impact on the $78 billion Nashville healthcare industry. We had the opportunity to hear members of Congress, bipartisan think-tank directors and industry thought leaders discuss their perspectives on the issues driving the healthcare reform debate and the implications of new legislation for payers, providers and healthcare consumers. Read on for some of our takeaways from the event.

Day 1

Nexus of the Debate

As expected, the newly introduced American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was unveiled by House Republicans on March 6, dominated the discussion of the day. Michael Ramlet, co-founder and CEO of Morning Consult, spoke about the motivation driving President Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (18 percent of Trump voters want Obamacare repealed) and briefed us on the details of the bill, which some legislators refer to as “Obamacare Lite.” Ramlet also presented research gathered by Morning Consult that reveals growing support for Obamacare since the presidential election.

Industry Impact

Session speaker Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said the bill, as written, would increase the ranks of the uninsured and have a negative impact on hospitals and consumers. A later session of panelists acknowledged the growing anxiety among providers and the public that the bill will reduce the number of insured Americans due to stipulations such as the elimination of the ACA’s individual mandate, changes to Medicaid and replacement of the current income-based subsidy program with age-based tax credits. Panel moderator Bill Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, projected 8–10 million Americans would lose coverage, with the young, old and poor hit the hardest. The general consensus among panelists was that AHCA will not pass without revisions, though new healthcare legislation is expected to pass within 2017.

Financial Angle

The sessions wrapped with a panel of financial experts who offered investment insights on the proposed bill. They noted that while AHCA will not financially benefit hospitals, there are enough pros and cons to make it manageable for providers as well as payers.

Day 2

Legislators Weigh In 

The second day of sessions was filled with insight from members of the Tennessee congressional delegation on everything from the political climate influencing passage of the legislation to its likelihood of becoming law. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee) discussed the Congressional Budget Office’s newly released analysis of the bill, which estimates that 24 million Americans will lose coverage by 2026 if the AHCA becomes law. While the federal deficit should decrease as a result, the legislation would set healthcare reform back, Rep. Cooper noted.

The CMS Perspective 

We also heard from Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which covers approximately 130 million Americans and accounts for $1 trillion in healthcare spending annually. Conway remarked that bundled programs are improving quality and lowering cost, and he expects these to continue under the Trump administration—though mandatory bundles could be tweaked to allow opt-outs. He also said value-based programs will continue to grow, though there is talk of working more closely with providers to identify the most meaningful quality measures to help them reduce their reporting burden.

AHCA Passage

Republican and Democrat lawmakers who spoke agreed that Republication opposition to the AHCA in the Senate will likely prevent the bill from passing in its current form. U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) argued that repealing the current law is necessary to help Americans get the kind of insurance they want, particularly younger people who need options for more affordable plans.

At emids, we have been closely following the impact of the new Trump administration on the healthcare landscape and the effect of potential policy changes on the payers and providers we serve. Being part of this delegation gave us the perfect opportunity to learn more about the changes on the horizon so we can provide our clients with even deeper expertise, especially in conversations involving healthcare strategy.

Though most speakers at the event expressed concerns about the proposed Obamacare replacement and what it will mean for the industry, senior director of business development Rebekah Panepinto, who represented emids in the delegation, was encouraged to see that “legislators are cautious and aware of how this bill impacts healthcare overall” and are committed to making revisions to improve it.

While it is hard to predict how the healthcare reform debate will play out, any new legislation that passes will present opportunities for “finding new technology problems to solve and better ways to automate systems,” Panepinto adds.

Participating in events like this delegation, which is now in its 15th year, has been rewarding for emids because of the connections it creates, not only with payers and providers but also with legislators and legal and financial experts in healthcare.

“Even though there were not a lot of direct conversations about healthcare technology, connecting with the delegates was valuable,” Panepinto says. “It is helpful for us to know who the policy leaders are and understand where they are headed.”

For full coverage of the two-day event, visit the Nashville Post blog.

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