Heard in Nashville: 6 healthcare leaders weigh in on GOP bill

From left, Nathan Goldstein of CenseoHealth, Krista Drobac of Sirona Strategies, Rafael Gonzalez of Flagship Services Group, David Meyer of SCAN Health Plan, Osato Chitou of Gateway Health and Ana Handshuh of Ultimate Health Plans participate in a panel discussion last Tuesday at the RISE Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. (Leslie Small)

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—While the primary topics of the 2017 RISE Summit were risk adjustment, quality ratings and compliance, once House Republicans unveiled the American Health Care Act, it quickly became one of the most-discussed subjects.

“I was asked to come and talk today about something other than the Affordable Care Act and the fight in Washington,” Alliance of Community Health Plans President and CEO Ceci Connolly said during her keynote address Tuesday. “But I think it’s pretty hard to ignore at the moment.”

So Connolly and other speakers at the conference offered analysis and opinions about the GOP’s new healthcare bill—whether scheduled to speak about the subject or not. Here’s a sampling of their comments:

  • During a featured panel on the impact of the new administration across the healthcare spectrum, Osato Chitou, the Medicare compliance officer for Gateway Health, highlighted the business challenges tied to the uncertainty surrounding the impending healthcare policy shift. “Things have been so up in the air that it’s just hard to plan and project for the future,” she said.
  • “My concern when I look at this, is healthy people are going to do OK,” said fellow panelist Ana Handshuh, vice president of managed care services for Ultimate Health Plans. “Who’s not going to do well are people who have traditionally fallen through the cracks and now are going to fall through the cracks even further.” Another concern for her organization, she added, is the prospect of more consumers entering the Medicare program who have unmet—and costly—healthcare needs because they are forced to go without insurance under the GOP’s proposals.
  • David Meyer, vice president of risk adjustment, encounters, coding and audit for SCAN Health Plan, said he is worried about the prospect of means testing making its way into Medicare Advantage, given the fact that House Speaker Paul Ryan has expressed support for such a policy in the past. That said, to him the Republicans’ bill “seems like a first pass that’s not meant to be operationalized.”
  • But Krista Drobac, a partner at Sirona Strategies, disagreed. “This is not something that they thought would not get the votes,” she said. “This is a proposal that they believe they can get through the House, and they will dare the Senate not to pass it.”
  • In remarks before her keynote speech, Connolly reminded the audience that the AHCA is only an “opening salvo” in what will likely be a long legislative process to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That said, she noted that the bill as it’s written would “dramatically” change the Medicaid program.
  • During his spotlight presentation, John Lumpkin, the senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, warned that the political risk associated with healthcare reform has now shifted to the GOP. “As much as individuals may have hated [former President Barack] Obama or disliked the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are essentially the dog that caught the car,” he said. “It’s theirs now—they know it, and everyone in politics knows it.”