Monday, March 22, 2010

Healthcare Reform Is Here! Are We Ready?

Well it finally happened. President Obama got at least some version of the Healthcare Reform Bill he has been stumping for since he took office. It doesn't look much like the bill he started with. The public option that he held out for so long is gone and it certainly does not have the bipartisan support that he promised. In fact, according to Washington insiders the rift between the two parties is larger today than it has ever been in any one's memory.

As to whether last night's monumental House vote was a good thing or a bad thing for the healthcare industry, the answer depends on who you ask. Many CEO's are saying this will be devastating, but a few are quietly saying that this will be good for them. It sounds a lot like the sentiments of the rest of the country.

I am at the Annual Congress of the American College of Healthcare Executives in Chicago which kicked off this morning. It is the largest gathering of healthcare executives in the world; over 4,000 in attendance. It is ironic that this morning's opening keynote address which was scheduled months ago was titled "The Politics of Healthcare Reform". Talk about timing. According to Tom Dolan, CEO of ACHE, he had it all planned this way. Stuart Rothenberg, PhD was the opening speaker. Stuart is a well known political analyst and "handicapper" of politicians. He had an interesting political perspective on all this.

Stuart states that healthcare reform is not done. The current bill will probably be enacted but revisions will passed even before some of the provisions of last night's bill are scheduled to go into effect. He says the mood of the country has definitely changed. There will be a mild uptick in the President's approval for a while after last night. After all, the Democrats were under real pressure to deliver something. Having passed nothing with a Democratic President and control of both houses of Congress would have been devastating to midterm elections. As it stands though, the midterm elections will still be very brutal on the Democrats. The independent voters who have supported the Democrats for four years are now changing heart. Also, most people polled, prefer not having either party control the Presidency and both houses of Congress.

One last observation that Stuart made is that it is way too early to count President Obama out for re-election. He stated that voters tend to be fickle and opinions on the country change quickly. He reminded us that President Clinton had a very low rating at his first midterm election.

But back to the new bill, it will present a new set of challenges to healthcare providers. There will be a strong emphasis on value and the government looks like it will use the allowance approach to cut costs. That is, rather than coming up with savings they will just cut rates and leave it up to providers to figure out how to survive with a lower allowance.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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