NEW YORK — Is the uncertainty in Washington — given current considerations to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — having a negative impact on investors’ willingness to lend money to the hospital field? Possibly for some, but the hospital field has weathered tough circumstances in the past, and the current environment should be no exception, according to experts at the 18th annual Citi Not-for-Profit Health Care Investor Conference.
“Managing Change” is the theme of this year’s conference, and Rick Pollack — president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, one of the sponsors of the event — framed the discussion Wednesday, given such uncertainty.
Just this week, there was a flurry of important moves in Washington: the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of costs of the House-passed health care reform bill; the release of President Donald Trump’s detailed 2018 budget; and continued court consideration of cost-sharing subsidies that affect many individuals who obtain ACA-driven health insurance off exchanges.
Pollack stressed to attendees that the debate in Washington is largely around coverage and how you pay for it. Meanwhile, improvements to the health care delivery system, are not up for debate. “Nobody is talking about repealing value-based purchasing, accountable care organizations, medical homes, bundling or gainsharing, for example. Initiatives like those enjoy bipartisan support,” he said.
Much of the change in the field has nothing to do with the AHCA, rather, it’s driven by everything from the rise of the consumer patient to advances in technology and the growing need to manage chronic diseases given the country’s aging population. Hospitals are committed to continuing to cut costs and find value, regardless of what happens on the Hill, he says.
He also urged the conference audience to look back on the last three decades for all the numerous challenges hospitals have tackled — Ebola, Clintoncare, Zika, treating the victims of mass terrorist attacks, numerous nursing shortages — to find assurance that the hospital field can remain strong amid the current volatile health care environment.
“I’m confident about the future because of the talent that’s in this room,” Pollack said. “They have proven time and time again that they have the ability to meet the challenges that lie ahead and to capture the opportunities that are on the horizon. Why? Because they know how to be nimble, they know how to stay focused and they know how to manage change.”