Five Questions for Claire Cowart Haltom
On March 13-14, the Nashville Health Care Council's Leadership Health Care (LHC) initiative led a group of more than 100 healthcare leaders on its annual two-day delegation to Washington, D.C.
This year's event provided delegates with an inside look at the state of healthcare policy under the new Trump Administration and predictions about what developments might unfold to impact Nashville's $78 billion healthcare industry. The delegation featured discussions with members of Congress, administration officials and national thought leaders about key healthcare policy issues, the state of investor-owned community hospitals, healthcare information technology and more.
Claire Cowart Haltom, shareholder with Baker Donelson, is vice chair of the Leadership Health Care board and a regular attendee of the annual delegation to D.C. She assists healthcare organizations and insurance companies with complex business transactions, strategic market analysis, regulatory compliance, state approvals, licensing issues, corporate practice of medicine issues, clinical integration opportunities, and antitrust concerns. Additionally, Haltom provides strategic policy and government relations advice to clients on federal and state public policy matters. She sat down for a Q&A with Nashville Medical News about the recent LHC trip.
NMN: What were the key takeaways from the trip?
Haltom: Strap in for a wild ride. The Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare will mean another tumultuous few years in healthcare as our industry reacts to the changing landscape. Most of the speakers felt confident that the American Health Care Act will be signed into law this year, but whether the Republicans can build upon that momentum and pass legislation to implement Republican ideas - such as selling health insurance across state lines - remains to be seen.
As Chip Kahn, the president of the Federation of American Hospitals said, the only thing we can be sure of is that there will be tweets from the president.
NMN: What there a speaker or presentation that left a particularly strong impression?
Haltom: Patrick Conway's conversation with Senator Bill Frist offered a refreshing perspective on how a committed public servant is trying to effect positive change from the inside. Conway is the chief medical officer for CMS and is a career employee - not a political appointee. He is leading the effort internally to take the $3 trillion we spend on healthcare every year (that's $100 million per hour) and make sure the government spends that money as effectively as possible. We've seen a lot of positive changes in recent years as CMS has started to shift from volume-based payments to value-based payments, but there's still a lot of work to be done.
NMN: Having heard various viewpoints over two packed days, is there a specific area of concern that you will continue to follow?
Haltom: We hear a lot about the health insurance marketplace, but the reality is that Medicaid is the sleeper issue that could make or break the Republicans' efforts for healthcare reform.
Medicaid is far more complex and covers millions more people than the exchanges. I work with a number of non-profit health systems across the United States - many in states that have not expanded Medicaid. These hospitals suffered the same reimbursement cuts under the ACA as hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid but didn't receive any of the upside offered by Medicaid expansion. I'll be watching the Medicaid discussions very closely because these changes will have an echo effect throughout the industry.
NMN: What made you want to attend this year's trip to Washington?
Haltom: This is my fifth time attending the LHC Delegation to DC. The thing that keeps me coming back is that I get to hear directly from the health policy change-makers in Washington as change is happening.
With no press in the room, the members of Congress, the government representatives, and industry executives can speak candidly about their concerns, ideas, and predictions. These insightful discussions help me advise my clients on the issues that they need to be thinking about next. I don't know of any other organization that provides this kind of access year-after-year.
NMN: Any final thoughts?
Haltom: Healthcare is constantly changing, but the next few years will be extremely important for our industry. The Trump Administration has signaled that they intend to revisit a number of agency rules and interpretations that were previously implemented by the Obama Administration. Now is the time for healthcare organizations to be meeting with CMS, HHS, and other agencies to explain the business impact rules and interpretations have on companies operating in the marketplace.