LeadingAge to LTC providers: Demand change in healthcare delivery system

Advocacy, service and inspiration are the calls for action at LeadingAge’s annual meeting, being held this week in Denver. The gathering of not-for-profit providers, estimated at 7,000 in attendance, represents witnesses to and participants in a looming sea change in the nation's healthcare delivery system.

The overriding message from LeadingAge thought leaders is that providers must step up to the plate and demand a say in the future of the country’s bloated and broken healthcare delivery system. This message was forcefully delivered by yesterday’s general session speaker, Atul Gawande, MD, a practicing surgeon, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and bestselling author.

“The problems of aging are said to be fundamentally medical in nature and we’ve had a 60-year experiment of saying ‘let’s hand it over to the doctors,’ but it’s proven to be a failure,” said Gawande. “The problems and trials of aging are more fundamental and profound than simply medical; they have to do with maintaining and building lives. Our task is to help people express their goals, express what is meaningful to them about their lives and help them meet those goals. That’s not up to doctors and hospitals. It’s up to you.”

LeadingAge President and CEO Larry Minnix echoed Gawande’s challenge in a Monday press conference. “One of the issues we’re working to get across to our members is that they are the solution to these problems,” Minnix said. “In the not-for-profit sector they are responsible for people the 355 days a year that they’re not in the hospital and the 22 hours a day they’re not in the doctor’s office or ER. They should have a huge influence on how healthcare delivery should be delivered.

“We say to members ‘you’ve got to be a much more visible crucible of innovation,’ especially in technology, finance and housing with supportive services.”

Minnix didn’t mince words when it came to the challenges facing the LTC industry. “The way we’re financing long-term care in this country—the more we do it the broker we get. And the worse the quality is.”

LeadingAge strongly supports the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which has basically been “in a coma” for the past year, as Minnix described it, although he believes the controversial LTC funding initiative still has legs. “We’d like to see [CLASS] come out of its coma and be a catalyst for change,” Minnix said, while acknowledging that "it will be up to the White House to do it.”

Minnix also announced his endorsement for the presidential candidate whom he claims will best represent the provider group’s interests: President Obama. “The Obama agenda is to continue moving forward with the transformation of ideas in the ACA and we supported it,” Minnix said. “It was good for seniors and so far the early signs of some of the innovative things provided for in the ACA are coming about and you’re seeing things that are making a difference, especially around some of the concepts like community-based care.

“What we’ve seen of the Romney agenda is more dramatic cuts downstream, and we know that most nursing homes are not reimbursed adequately,” Minnix continued.

“[Regardless of] who you might like in this race, we have to analyze the policy and what we’ve seen so far [in Mitt Romney's platform] makes things worse for the people we’re talking about," Minnix said. "The ACA may not be perfect but it has us on the right track.”

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