WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the 2016 American Hospital Association Annual Membership Meeting concluded, several topics covered are important for the hospital field to keep an eye on going forward.

Matters related to the regulatory environment and the various changes taking place in clinical care and reimbursement were among the recurring themes at the conference.

Newly installed AHA Chairman Jim Skogsbergh, president and CEO of Advocate Health Care, set the tone with his investiture address by highlighting the importance that advocacy will be playing in both the near and long term. “Reimbursement, regulations, rules — all of those can change with just the stroke of a pen,” Skogsbergh said. “And that change can do great harm or great good to our field,” he said.

How the elections will affect that oversight is uncertain, given that the party that will control the two chambers of Congress is up for grabs. Because the GOP has more incumbents up for re-election in the Senate, that party potentially has more seats to lose, according to speakers at the conference. There is a reasonable chance that control of the Senate could shift to the Democrats if voting goes that party’s way, said Tom Nickels, executive vice president of government relations and public policy for the AHA. The House is less likely to shift away from the Republican Party, he said. Regardless, the current outlook is that no single party is likely to control Congress and the executive branch, meaning that large-scale changes to the Affordable Care Act are unlikely.

As noted yesterday, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt’s talk stressed that the agency is trying to be considered as less of an adversary and more of a transparent regulator working alongside the hospital field.

In addition, Slavitt predicted that the value-based models being tested through the enactment of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 and the ACA are going to evolve over time, and likened them to early generations of the Apple iPhone. “I think it would be a mistake to view these models as fully calibrated,” Slavitt said. “We should expect theses models to get better and better with each release,” he said.

At least three of the speakers described their personal links to health care. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough’s mother was an emergency department nurse, which served as a prelude to his overview of the Obama Administration’s approach to the opioid addiction crisis. “With your continued leadership, we’ll be able to help more and more Americans defeat the scourge of this epidemic of opioid use and heroin use, and help people take back their communities and their families,” McDonough said.

Keynote speaker Megyn Kelly’s mother also worked as a nurse, but in behavioral health. The Fox News television host dedicated the bulk of her speech to the lessons her mother taught her.

Broadcaster Jane Pauley’s major experience was more direct. She grew up in Indiana with a name so ordinary that her own father suggested she change it. Professionally, her value to her employers was that she seemed “normal.” But that equilibrium was upset when a case of hives triggered behavioral changes that were later diagnosed as a bipolar disorder, Pauley said.

With her equilibrium now restored, Pauley came to the AHA meeting with the goal of asking health care leaders to work to take the stigma out of behavioral health issues. "It's a problem of the brain," Pauley said.