SCOTTSDALE—Healthcare leaders are increasingly skeptical the government can do anything to solve their industry’s pervasive cost and access problems, and it’s fueling calls that they go it alone, according to those who spoke at a Modern Healthcare event Tuesday.
“My belief is looking to the government to actually fix something as complex as this won’t work,” said Dan Liljenquist, chief strategy officer for Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare. “We (the audience made up of healthcare C-suite leaders) know healthcare. How do we organize for a different future?”
Leaders from prominent hospital and health plan trade groups opined on the future of health policy Tuesday at Modern Healthcare’s Leadership Symposium. But audience members chimed in with thoughts of their own, which mostly revolved around charging ahead without Congress or the Biden administration.
Liljenquist, a former state senator in Utah, told the group his experience in public office taught him that trying to solve healthcare issues with a broad policy brush doesn’t work. That’s why he led the effort to bring 55 health systems together to form Civica Rx, a provider-owned drug company that aims to stabilize hospitals’ pharmaceutical supply chain by making generic drugs for its members. He asked the panel whether they really thought Congress could do anything “substantively” to change the direction healthcare is headed.
Panelist Ceci Connolly had a quick answer: “My answer would be government ought to get out of the way,” she said.
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Connolly is CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, a trade group for not-for-profit health plans. She said the pandemic has contributed to what’s become a “very charged” environment in Washington, D.C., in which policymakers—both in Congress and the Biden administration—are skeptical of new interventions.
“The mood in Washington has grown increasingly toxic,” she said. “Partisan doesn’t begin to describe it.”
When ACHP’s representatives describe the efforts they’re rolling out in communities, policymakers accuse ACHP of cherry-picking data, Connolly said. To healthcare providers in the room, she stressed the need to communicate their stories using data. To counteract the current environment of frustration and skepticism, providers should respond by doing more to highlight their value to communities.
Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of Jefferson Health, a not-for-profit system based in Philadelphia, said for 10 years, every conference panel has had the same conversation. It’s about equity, prevention and payer-provider alignment. It sounds nice, but Klasko said it hasn’t solved the fact that U.S. healthcare is a failed, unsustainable system.
An obstetrician, Klasko noted that the U.S. spends four times more per obstetric patient than any other country, yet its outcomes are somewhere between Serbia and Croatia.
“We talk so much about the government, but the government is getting more people access to this broken, fragmented, inequitable system,” he said, noting Jefferson Health spends millions fighting health insurers and the Federal Trade Commission, which recently opted against appealing a judge’s dismissal of its lawsuit seeking to block Jefferson’s merger with Albert Einstein Healthcare Network.