ACHE talks politics, healthcare reform at annual meeting

With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on Affordable Care Act challenges next week and the Presidential election heating up, politics and reform were top-of-mind for attendees and speakers at the 2012 annual congress of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) in Chicago this week.

ACHE's incoming chair, Gayle Capozzalo (pictured), executive vice president of strategy and system development at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health System, drew on the old Yankee saying about New England weather as a metaphor for healthcare reform: If you don't like it, just wait a minute ... it will change.

Speaking at the opening address, Capozzalo called the changing dynamics of health reform "the most significant move that we'll see in our professional lifetime."  

At yesterday's keynote address, Ronald Brownstein, senior political and election analyst at CNN and ABC, talked about the fracturing effect of healthcare reform on American politics.  

Neither party has a stable majority support, Brownstein said. And with such divergent visions, the heightened political volatility makes for an all-or-nothing political landscape. But both parties must compromise to achieve any real action, he added.

Brownstein predicted that Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), will emerge as a competitive alternative to Obama and his national healthcare agenda, assuming he can "reset" his reputation.

At a luncheon session yesterday, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., talked about healthcare reform indirectly by discussing how health literacy and cultural competency can help with the current drive to "provide the best care for the most people at a lower cost."

It's more complex than calling for an interpreter, he warned. Explaining complex science to patients to help them make informed decisions about their care is key to creating sustained behavioral change and, in turn, addressing chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.