In This Issue
Robert E. Byrd, FACHE
Alamance Regional Medical Center
Christine L. Sternjacob
Novant Health – Triad Region
Paul A. Jeffrey
Wesley Long Community Hospital – Moses Cone Health System
Pamela M. Sinclair, FACHE
High Point Regional Health System
Samuel B. Seifert
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Summer Meeting/Program Had Distinguished Panel|
by Bob Byrd, FACHE
THEF held its third meeting/program for the year, its second Category I Panel Discussion, on August 18, 2009. Held at the Education Center at Wesley Long Community Hospital, the title of the program was “The Healthcare Organization’s Role in Formulating Public Policy.” The distinguished panel was moderated by Linwood Jones, General Counsel for the North Carolina Hospital Association. Panelists were THEF’s very own Tim Rice, FACHE, President and CEO of the Moses Cone Health System, Maureen Demarest Murray, Esq., partner with Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, and Lanier M. Cansler, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services. A total of forty-four (44) persons were in attendance.
After an engaging half hour of socializing and networking, catalyzed by delicious and nutritious finger food and soft drinks graciously provided by Wesley Long, the panel discussion began with comments by moderator Linwood Jones. Mr. Jones expressed how important it was for NCHA hospital members to be engaged with the NCHA in the legislative process. He cited as an example the proposed sales tax law that was before the legislature, but was defeated. The law’s passage would have caused huge financial implications for the state’s nonprofit hospitals. Individual members were vital in communicating that message to their local legislative delegations. Mr. Jones also pointed out that the NCHA, along with its members, plays a vital role in working with the regulatory branches and agencies of government. He cited a current example of the regulatory requirement of medical office buildings, after being purchased by hospitals, having to be upgraded to more costly hospital building standards even when the services being provided in those buildings may not change.
Tim Rice described his early experiences, as a new CEO, of working with legislators to communicate the impact of proposed laws on Moses Cone. He emphasized the importance of building relationships and trust with representatives at lower levels, noting that some, such as Senator Kay Hagan, move up to more influential positions. In working with officials, he leaves the details of his communications to the professionals in the American Hospital and North Carolina Hospital Associations. He noted that local connections are very important. He stated that one needs to pick the right battles. He also pointed out the importance of speaking to civic clubs and other community forums to educate the community on important issues.
Maureen Murray began by speaking about regulatory law, noting that it is subject to interpretation. She indicated that agencies need and want insight from providers when writing regulations, noting that there are opportunities for executives to provide comments and serve on workgroups that write rules. Ms. Murray emphasized that being involved in the beginning of developing rules builds relationships and trust, which provides opportunity for influence. She cited that the process of developing the State Medical Facilities Plan is a good opportunity for involvement. She expressed the importance of educating the public on issues through public speaking and writing editorials, and the need to take a stand on litigation.
Secretary Lanier Cansler provided an overview of the Department of Health and Human Services, noting that it is the largest agency in state government with 19,000 employees. Health care makes up the largest part of the budget, with the Medicaid budget being over $10 billion. He noted that the Medicaid program is a larger program than Blue Cross Blue Shield, but that it employs far fewer persons. He described the state’s budget situation as a tough one that requires cuts in expenditures. Secretary Cansler expressed that he would much rather manage utilization rates to lower levels than to manage payment rates to lower levels. He spoke of the importance of input from providers as his department deals with budget decisions.
A spirited question and answer session followed with great participation from all of the panelists. Much of the discussion centered around mental health reform in North Carolina and health care reform nationally.
Judging by the responses from the evaluation forms, the program was very successful. Of the 30 persons who responded, the average score was 4.5 for the question that asked how satisfied one was with the panel discussion, which was on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being very dissatisfied and 5 being very satisfied. On the question that asked about the effectiveness of the program in enhancing professional knowledge and skills, the average score was 4.3 with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. There were many written comments such as “Excellent meeting!” “Great opportunity to get credit while hearing a great program!” “Great program! Thanks!” “Excellent program, interesting and knowledgeable presenters.” “Very timely topic superbly presented.”