Health care’s window of opportunity opens
A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld most aspects of the health care reform law. Though this result was not unexpected in the health care community, the way it happened was a bit of a surprise with Chief Justice Roberts acting as the deciding vote.
There is much speculation about why and when he made his decision, but the result is still the same.
So what does this mean for us in Newton and in Iowa? Much of Skiff Medical Center’s strategic plan for the next four years was based on the assumption that the Medicare demonstration program established by the health care reform law, and which completely changed how we are paid for inpatient care, would remain.
We made this assumption because there were no other reasonable options — the program keeps us alive. So the first impact is that we breathe a sigh of relief knowing this program is safe.
The second impact is that the hospital industry as a whole now understands that the requirements in health-care reform that link payment for services to value (rather than volume), are likely here to stay. This will require a much stronger focus on publicly reported grades related to quality and patient satisfaction, a renewed focus on improving the health of whole communities in addition to the health of individuals, and the need for more integration of hospitals, physicians and long-term care facilities.
Interestingly, a major announcement was made in Iowa on the afternoon of the Supreme Court decision. On that day, the University of Iowa Health Alliance was formed. This alliance is made up of the University of Iowa, Mercy Cedar Rapids, Genesis Health System in Davenport and the Mercy Health Network in Des Moines.
This alliance will form the basis of what the health care reform act calls an “accountable care organization.” As we move into the future, we will see additional integration between health-care providers as the focus on increasing quality, improving access and decreasing cost intensifies even more, making providers more and more dependent on each other for success.
We are fortunate to have a window of opportunity during the next few years to prepare ourselves to participate in a health-care environment that will look very different five years from now than it does today. Our goal is to ensure that Skiff Medical Center remains a treasured community asset serving the needs of people in Newton and Jasper County for the long term.
Thanks to your continued support, I am confident we will meet this goal.
Steve Long is CEO of Skiff Medical Center in Newton.
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