8 healthcare insights from a longtime Washington insider

By Bernie Monegain
07:47 AM
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Chip Kahn III keynotes HIMSS Policy Summit
Chip Kahn III

Chip Kahn III, President and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, is not shy about giving his opinion. After all, he's been steeped in healthcare policy at the national level throughout his career.

He taught healthcare policy at Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University and Tulane University.

In 1993 and 1994, as Health Insurance Association of America executive vice president, Kahn ran the "Harry and Louise" campaign opposing President Clinton's proposed health reform plan. In 2000, Kahn brought back "Harry and Louise" as advocates for the uninsured, a move applauded even by traditional critics of the health insurance industry, he notes.

His keynote speech at the HIMSS Policy Summit during National Health IT Week on Wednesday had the markings of someone who revels in putting healthcare policy issues in context.

[See also: HIMSS names National Health IT Week award winners.]

Here are eight of Kahn's observations:

1. On the coverage side, ACA (aka Obama Care) has been successful – maybe not as successful as it could have been, but the law has changed life in America. Many people have coverage today who would never have hoped to have coverage before. At the end of the day, they're better off today than before ACA.

2. The ACA has made a material difference in how we deliver and possibly ultimately on how we finance healthcare. We have reduced the uninsured by 40 percent and that is an incredible achievement.

3. The international scene is extremely volatile and could be a game changer at any moment that could filter down and affect what happens even in domestic healthcare policy.

4. Around the world, we have countries that are literally in recession or tantamount to recession. Yes, we're still doing OK, but clearly there's always the looming downturn. How many years can we have continued growth? We've had seven or eight. We've doing fairly well, and that's not going to continue.

5. Post the King vs. Burwell Supreme Court decision, at least for the time being, we have ACA coverage expansion enfranchised and moving forward.

6. For Republicans, the ACA is defining. It is a litmus test. It remains part of the divide. That issue and the Planned Parenthood issue are part of the drivers for House Speaker John Boehner opting to step aside.

7. What comes next? I think we face a consequential presidential election. It makes a difference in terms of what the direction is. But, I think, from a healthcare standpoint, we will face important significant legislation regardless. Something's going to happen in 2017. If nothing else, in 2017, Congress will have to deal with entitlements. I think there will be some day of reckoning in early '17.

8. On the accountability side, on the transparency side of ACA, is part of a general movement, where patients and those who pay for care today expect accountability and have much higher expectations about what the system will do. And they expect value.

Related National Health IT Week coverage:  

NHITWeek: Where will be in 5 years? 

Wounded warrior to headline NHITWeek 

National Health IT Week: Gauging the progress

HIMSS posts 3 Congressional 'asks' for National Health IT Week 2015