I just got off a conference call with the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA), in which they discussed their launch of a statewide public awareness campaign to “alert Virginians to the financial challenges confronting Virginia hospitals, and to explain how they pose harmful consequences for employment, our economy, public health, and access to high-quality health care.” VHHA adds that this “is the start of a continuing dialogue with the public and policymakers about the vital importance of Virginia hospitals – they directly employ 115,000 people and generate $36 billion in economic activity for the Commonwealth – the pressure they face from government mandates and inaction, and the need for solutions to remedy those issues for the good of all Virginians.” Speakers on the conference call were Sean Connaughton, President and CEO of VHHA; James B. Cole, President and CEO of Virginia Hospital Center; Toni R. Ardabell, CEO of Bon Secours Richmond Health System; Mary N. Mannix, President and CEO of Augusta Health. A few key points included:
*Virginia hospitals are vital both to people’s health and to the economy; they generate $35.8 billion in economic activity, employ 115,026 people with a payroll of $7.9 billion and rank among the top five employers in 60% of Virginia counties.
*Virginia hospitals are facing significant economic headwinds. This is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country, receiving over 60% of its revenue from either Medicaid or Medicare. In Virginia, Medicaid pays about two thirds of what it costs hospitals to provide care, and more cuts in reimbursements are likely. “This is a non-sustainable situation.”
*”We’re here today to begin a dialogue to try to bring to the public’s attention that there’s a problem, that we are facing serious headwinds, and that there are a lot of health systems and hospitals in the state that are bailing water pretty seriously.”
*The goal is to engage “all parts of the political spectrum” to come up with a “Virginia solution that will be sustainable for the long term.”
*Virginia hospitals contribute to the overall health and well being of the Commonwealth, so “the ripple effects of policies that harm hospitals reach much farther and wider than hospitals or health care systems.”
*”This isn’t a partisan issue at all, this is truly a health care issue and a community issue.”
*Today, there are “challenges that we’ve never faced before in the health care system, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to meet the needs of the underserved while keeping our hospitals fiscally sound, and that’s sometimes especially true in rural areas.”
*Hospitals “want to start a dialogue about the real problems that exist and the need for resolution to preserve Virginia’s vitally important work of health care…and the significant economic contributions we make.”
*Rural hospitals are typically the largest employers in their area. Just about half of rural hospitals operate in the red in Virginia…and they’re all very much challenged in terms of their sustainability, their ability to continue to be there for their communities…”
*”Augusta Health is one of the few remaining independent hospitals functioning in Virginia,” said Mary N. Mannix, President and CEO of Augusta Health in Fishersville and Vice Chair of VHHA’s Board of Directors. “The trend in our industry is toward consolidation and mergers, one reflection of the challenges independent hospitals face. The distressing fact is that Virginia hospitals, whether independent or health system-aligned, are grappling with decisions about providing the best care in a regulatory and statutory climate inhospitable to health care provider stability both in Virginia and nationally. In the Commonwealth, this situation could cause harm to our economic prospects – businesses don’t want to relocate or expand in communities without strong health care infrastructure. Good health care and a vibrant economy are intertwined.”
*”There are absolutely enough people of goodwill who want the best for Virginians that if we…engage in a dialogue that we can come up with solutions that would work and provide sustainable healthcare systems…throughout the state.”
*”There’s no silver bullet, and we’re not prepared to say if you only do this it fixes everything. It’s very complex and regulated at both the state and national levels, and the only way to get to something that will work in Virginia over the long term is to engage in a very serious dialogue…there’s a problem that’s going to get worse…help the people of Virginia and our elected representatives to understand that…”
*We’ve seen creative solutions in the Virginia legislature on transportation and other issues, so there can be one on health care.
*”Let’s not make this a partisan issue, let’s not make this an argumentative issue, let’s get together and collaborate for what’s good for the communities that we live in…Our solution today is ‘let’s dialogue.'”
For my part, I wish the VHHA luck, support this effort and hope it works!