(Sept. 13, 2019) – Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend the National Regional Policy Board meeting of the American Hospital Association held in Washington. The AHA holds this national meeting every couple of years to allow the RPBs from all over the country to meet together and discuss relevant issues. Kansas RPB members, Carrie Saia, Holton Community Hospital, Holton; Kiley Floyd, Nemaha Valley Community Hospital, Seneca; Shannan Flach, Kingman Community Hospital, Kingman; and Benjamin Anderson, Kearny County Hospital, Lakin also were in attendance.
At this meeting, we had the opportunity to hear CMS Administrator Seema Verma speak. As I have stated in the past, Administrator Verma is clearly an expert on health policy and has a definite idea of where she wants to take the agency. Her speech this week was interesting and informative. It was interesting because parts of it sounded like a campaign speech in preparation for the 2020 elections. Since we will have to endure these over and over in the coming months from many people, in my opinion we didn't need to hear one from the CMS Administrator. It was also interesting because she took no questions. Again, in my opinion, speaking before an audience of people who are leaders in an industry directly affected by your agency's policies, you might want to take questions from that audience.
Criticisms aside, Administrator Verma's comments were also highly instructive and paint a clear picture as to her priorities. She focused on three general areas: transparency, value-based payment, and regulatory burdens. Regarding transparency, she offered that the Trump administration is upending the status quo to make patients informed consumers through unprecedented cost and quality transparency. She argued that patients should "no longer be kept in the dark" and that "doomsday warnings" about price transparency "come from those who want to protect the status quo."
Verma emphasized that we must "move past" fee for service reimbursement to value-based payment because "it is the future." She told the audience that we must deal with hospital spending in order to reduce costs, and that as the market continues to move toward more value-based payment, these types of payment models will "no longer be optional." According to the CMS Administrator providers who take on risk "deliver better results" and that one of her priorities over the course of the next year will be to encourage providers to take on even more risk.
Administrator Verma did recognize that the government deserves part of the blame for challenges in healthcare. She said that the government has "concocted a time sucking morass" that stifles innovation. She said that the Trump administration has combatted that through its "patients over paperwork" campaign which has revised the RAC audit process, eliminated and streamlined the reporting of quality measures by 30 percent and is on track to reduce a total of 40 million hours of burden on the system through 2021. She also indicated that the administration intends to propose a revision to the Stark regulations within the next "couple of months."
Seema Verma outlined a very ambitious agenda for her agency. Time will tell whether she delivers.