Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

NJHA Goes to Washington – Day 2

We wrap up our journey to the American Hospital Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., with a day packed with big-name policymakers and visits with members of the New Jersey congressional delegation.
Yesterday we ended our day by having the full group of New Jersey hospital advocates hear from Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. He spoke to a packed room and was gracious enough to spend a lot of time answering our questions. Congressman Pallone talked about the difficult road to health reform and the state implementation issues in the future. We thanked him for all of his help and leadership (and that of his staff) in achieving this landmark legislation and for helping us with some specific issues of importance to N.J. providers. We agreed to communicate any concerns we encounter as the new law is implemented.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a special quest this morning. She applauded hospitals' efforts to work with Congress to pass the healthcare reform bill. Reform, she said, will give the nation's hospitals 32 million individuals with insurance cards, fewer uncompensated ER visits, a larger supply of primary care physicians and expanded efforts to improve healthcare quality. (Of course, hospitals agreed to billions of dollars in funding reductions over the next decade to help pay for those reforms. Hospitals truly are committed and vested in being part of a solution to our healthcare system's problems.)

Our afternoon is full of visits with Congress members and their staff in their offices on Capitol Hill. We have a strong contingent of hospital leaders from New Jersey who are fanning out in meetings with Sens. Menendez (who was a tremendous advocate on N.J. hospital issues during the reform debate) and staff members for Sen. Lautenberg, along with almost all of our Congress members.

We appreciate the opportunity to meet with all the members of the delegation on the very important issues confronting healthcare in New Jersey. In the end, we share a common goal of providing affordable, accessible, quality healthcare to the people of our state.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 19:46

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NJHA Goes to Washington

I'm blogging today from the American Hospital Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. While it's gray and gloomy here, we aren't getting the rain that my friends back home in New Jersey are getting.

Attendance is up this year at the AHA meeting. I suspect it's a combination of the economy improving and everyone wanting to get the latest and greatest news on how to position themselves for healthcare reform implementation. Today NJHA members are hearing from Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. We are really pleased he could join us and share his inside-the-beltway perspective with leaders in our hospital community. Tomorrow we will hear from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then hit the Hill for one-on-one meetings with members of the Garden State congressional delegation. We really value the opportunity to meet with our elected officials and discuss the issues that affect healthcare providers and our patients. We have some key New Jersey- specific issues (something called the "imputed rural floor" that deals with wage adjustments under the Medicare program and recoupment for disproportionate share hospitals) along with other national issues such as an onerous payment cut that looms for physicians and a new proposed inpatient payment rule that would take $11O million from N.J. hospitals next year. This rule would be devastating to our state. Both the physician pay cut and the hospital inpatient payment rule could severely impact our healthcare system's ability to provide the quality care our patients demand.

Our message to Congress is this: The hospital community agreed to cuts in the healthcare reform law as part of our commitment to insure more Americans, but these new proposed cuts are well above and beyond those agreements. We believe that by working in concert with our New Jersey delegation and the AHA, we can stop this harmful proposal.

Stay tuned!

Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:54

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Historic Vote Holds Tremendous Promise for Healthcare’s Future

Healthcare providers and patients alike have long struggled under our disjointed and in many ways broken healthcare system. Last night’s historic vote on healthcare reform offers tremendous new promise for New Jersey’s healthcare consumers, our physicians and hospitals, and most importantly, for New Jersey’s 1.3 million residents without health insurance. A projected 920,000 New Jerseyans could be added to the insurance rolls as a result of this landmark bill.

The nation’s hospitals committed early on to be part of this new and improved healthcare system by agreeing to more than $150 billion in funding reductions over the next decade that will help pay for other key components of reform. The impact to New Jersey hospitals will be about $5 billion in reductions over the next 10 years. We firmly believe that everyone – including insurance companies, hospitals, physicians and consumers – must have a stake in healthcare’s future. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:49

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While Leaders ‘Summit,’ N.J. Hospitals Are Testing Healthcare Solutions

I watched with great interest last week as President Obama and congressional representatives met in a bipartisan summit on healthcare reform. One of the lead discussion points was the need to find innovative ways to eliminate wasteful spending and consumption of healthcare services. One promising strategy is already underway here in New Jersey, where NJHA and 12 of its member hospitals and their participating physicians have received approval from the federal government to test an innovative new incentive method called “gain-sharing,” which aims to reduce healthcare costs while improving quality of care.

The three-year trial program could provide hospitals with an effective tool to align physician and hospital priorities, essentially making them partners in an effort to reduce the cost of healthcare. The strategies are endless, but one specific example could be a new timetable for physician rounds. By simply moving patient rounds to the morning and discharging patients early in the day, hospital expenses are reduced and patients are allowed to continue recovering in the comfort of their homes. This is one of many common sense approaches that could lead to significant cost savings.

Clearly, there is much work to be done to reform our healthcare system, reduce costs and extend health coverage to more Americans. Hospitals are ready to be part of the solution – as evidenced by this promising pilot project. We encourage Congress to continue examining such innovative ideas and lead us in the search for viable solutions to our healthcare system’s growing problems.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 13:49

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What’s More Divisive Than Healthcare Reform? Baseball

On a national scale, the big debate is still about healthcare reform. NJHA is actively involved with our congressional delegation, and the American Hospital Association in shaping the final package. Right now we’re tracking five – count ‘em, five – different proposals.

But while lawmakers battle over healthcare, the big debate in my house right now is… major league baseball. Everyone in my house loves baseball, but it can be as divisive as the public option. I grew up a Philadelphia Phillies fan, but my husband and I spent five years in New York City during the most recent glory days of the Yankees. I became a Yanks fan as well, but for some reason, my husband was immune to the lure of the Bronx Bombers. So you might think I am jumping on the bandwagon, but there is a reason why I have a favorite National League team and a favorite American League team.

But, like I said, I live in a divided household. My husband and son are Phillies fans, and they actively dislike my AL team. They even make fun of the designated hitter rule. In the first round series, the Yankees were preparing to sweep the Minnesota Twins, while the Phillies and Colorado Rockies were beginning one of the coldest games in playoff history (at the ridiculous start time of 10 p.m.) A crisis loomed: Which game would we watch? As we wrestled for control of the TV, the Yanks won and TBS switched over to the Phillies game. Crisis averted. If only things would work out so smoothly on Capitol Hill.

If I have my dream of a Yankees-Phillies World Series (would we call that the NJ Turnpike Series?) it will be a difficult time in my household, but I am more than willing to endure the gentle ribbings from my husband and son for that series. Maybe I can convert them to be dual fans? That’s probably as likely as getting S. C. Congressman Joe Wilson to agree with President Obama. But I can dream.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 18:10

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