Adventist health systems opens up first Washington policy shop

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When Carlyle Walton first settled into his new office just steps away from Union Station in Washington, D.C., a friend gave him a hard time about his desk.

A small standard-issue used among most office workers, the desk was far from the more formidable-looking model he used to have as CEO of the Texas-based Metroplex Health System, part of Advent Health, where he oversaw more than 1,200 employees.

The office, also located a short walk from the U.S. Capitol Building, is a small one in a larger co-working space. 

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He shrugs.

"I'm not planning on spending much time there anyway," said Walton, who was named the president of the Adventist Health Policy Association last summer. In his new role at AHPA, an affiliation of five Seventh-day Adventist healthcare systems, he is building up the first Washington policy shop and establishing a stronger national voice for the faith-based nonprofits among federal agencies and congressional offices. 

RELATED: Adventist Health System's patient-centered rebrand includes culture change focused on safety, love

"Whether that is about innovation or about basic things like food security, we want to be a meaningful part of the dialogue," Walton said. "Our focus is being part of that discussion and debate in how can we be creative in ensuring healthcare providers are paid for providing value?" Walton said. "It got a lot of debate when HHS Secretary Alex Azar made the statement in a recent speech suggesting we find ways to take Medicaid dollars and pay for housing. Well, that's fundamental to someone's health."

More specifically, the AHPA's focus areas include advancing evidence-based policies "that promote human wholeness" and the transition to value-based care.

For instance, they are supportive of recent opioid legislation which put resources toward prevention and treatment which passed Congress last fall.

Beyond that: "340B, the drug discount program, does a lot to fund our community needs. Those are things we're actively advocating for," he said. "With the Stark anti-kickback reform, we firmly believe that, to make a meaningful transition to value-based care, we can't be constantly hitting up against regulations that limit us from doing those things."

RELATED: Price transparency: ‘Rational pricing’ may lead to reduced costs

Telehealth, and its role in improving access, is also a priority, he said.

The AHPA hopes to be more connected and accessible to lawmakers and to partner with like-minded organizations like the Catholic Health Assocaition, Ascension Health and the Healthcare Leadership Council. "Those are all groups that function out of D.C., are headquartered out of D.C., have relationships in D.C.," Walton said. "The board came to the realization you've got to have a face and a presence here in the nation's capital to be agile and responsive and be a meaningful part of the dialogue."

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