From the Healthcare Workforce Summit: Policy Dialogue Can be Productive Instead of Partisan

From the Healthcare Workforce SummitThe politics of healthcare was a major topic of discussion at the 2017 Healthcare Workforce Summit in San Diego. That’s not surprising, given the back-and-forth debate over the Affordable Care Act that has dominated headlines throughout the year.

But as one speaker at the summit pointed out, the news isn’t all bleak. A productive discussion of nuts-and-bolts healthcare policy has been underway among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. But it’s happening below the radar.

That’s where success can be achieved, said Mary Grealy, President of the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of chief executives from all disciplines within American healthcare. She told the audience at the workforce summit that the often-bitter debate between advocates for and against Obamacare isn’t the only healthcare dialogue in Washington.

“Quiet” ways to improve the healthcare system can succeed with bipartisan support, including initiatives on care coordination, health data interoperability, FDA reforms, and value-based care, Grealy said.

A bipartisan Senate bill to help stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace, including by reinstating subsidies for insurance companies, has been developed. And so has legislation to fund children’s health insurance, appropriate money for community health centers, and restore Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments.

Another healthcare policy achievement that Grealy discussed was the Chronic Care Act, a bipartisan bill that passed unanimously in the Senate and awaits action from the House of Representatives. The bill directs resources to coordinated care, including through interdisciplinary care teams, expanded coverage of telemedicine, higher payments for coordinated care, and supplemental Medicare Advantage benefits to address causes of chronic illness.

Other legislation under bipartisan consideration includes funding 3,000 new physician residency positions. Other legislative priorities include increased funding for medical education, expanding pharmacists’ ability to provide care in medically underserved areas, and facilitating greater innovation in state Medicaid programs.

Value-based care is one area where government action can strengthen the healthcare system, improve quality of care, and reduce inefficiency, Grealy said. This includes breaking down walls between health sectors and encouraging optimization of practitioners across the healthcare continuum. Currently, artificial barriers often prevent the best use of healthcare professionals, she said. Scope of practice and license reciprocity issues need to be further addressed at the national and state levels.

The keys to moving forward on these and other issues while avoiding political gridlock, Grealy said, are building bipartisan coalitions, amplifying expert voices, emphasizing local impact, and, most importantly, focusing on the message of value for both the quality and efficiency of patient care.