Supreme Court's Ruling Lets Us Continue to Bring More Value to Our Patients
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Supreme Court's Ruling Lets Us Continue to Bring More Value to Our Patients

by -

Fort Dodge Messenger 7-1-2012

There's no doubt about it. The health care industry has anxiously awaited the Supreme Court opinion on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Since its passage, our health system, the largest group of health care providers in Iowa, also serving regions in Illinois, has invested millions of dollars in carrying out provisions of the ACA--provisions that have nothing to do with the individual mandate, co-ops or Medicaid coverage expansion. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), bundled payment projects and electronic health records are just a few of the health care delivery provisions of the law in which we've invested. The best kept secret about these provisions is that they embody concepts supported by Democrats and Republicans.

Now that the court has upheld the law, we breathe a momentary sigh of relief.

Our next reaction is an appeal - to the public, policy makers and political campaign staff: Can we move on? Let's not have the upcoming election, lame duck session and 2013 Congress focus on ripping apart health care delivery provisions of the ACA that will lower the cost, increase the quality, and improve the patient experience in the health care setting.

As a country we face two incredible challenges: one, to balance the budget and reduce our federal debt; second, to ensure that our private sector companies and their employees can be competitive in a global economy. Part of the answer to meeting these challenges is figuring out how to make our health care system deliver better outcomes for our patients and be more affordable for all Americans. To do this, we must pay for care differently and clinicians must deliver the care differently.

Physicians, nurses and others across Iowa, Illinois and the country are already working on this under provisions of the law. UnityPoint Health and Wellmark have entered into an agreement to do this in many parts of Iowa.

Trinity Health Systems established one of the first Medicare Accountable Care Organizations in America -- an alliance of a hospital, local doctors, home health care providers and a behavioral health center. Working together, these providers emphasize prevention by encouraging electronic and real-time communications between a patient's healthcare providers, early-interventions, disease management plans and healthy lifestyle counseling. This opportunity was provided by the health law. Already it has led to reduced admissions of chronic disease patients to the emergency room and is helping many patients live happier, healthier lives in their own homes.

Another example is the coordination of primary care and behavioral health care into a coordinated care model to keep patients mentally and physically healthy. Of 500 patients in this "community support system," only 1 percent of them are admitted for inpatient care per month. This is very low for patients with a history of mental illness.

We are already on our way to reforming health care. Let's not get derailed.

Allowing these types of programs to continue for Medicare and Medicaid patients will result in lower health care costs. Now that these portions of the Affordable Care Act that help in transforming the delivery of care have been preserved by the highest court, our elected senators and representatives must preserve them. And it is our leaders that can begin bi-partisan efforts to do just that. In Iowa and Illinois, we are fortunate to have elected leaders with seniority, chairmanship and leadership status, a tenacious record in support of health care. Let's support them in moving health reform forward rather than backward.

Bill Leaver is President and CEO of UnityPoint Health, based in Des Moines. It is the nation's fifth largest nonprofit, nondenominational health system in America with 26 hospitals, 24,000 employees and $2.8 billion in annual revenue. Trinity Health Systems is a senior affiliate of UnityPoint Health.