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LaborPress 2014 Union Health-Care Summit: The Future of Care

By John August

John August participated in and attended the LABORPRESS 2014 Union Health-Care Summit: The Future of Care which took place in New York City at the Carpenters Union Hall on February 27, 2014. He wrote the following piece after the event:

About 300 were in attendance representing unions and union health and welfare trust funds, insurance industry leaders, health advocacy leaders, health systems and other providers, consumers, health care workers, health policy experts, and the media.

The central purpose of the event was to analyze the early impact of the ACA on health care access.There was a wide range of opinions including those who believe the ACA is not serving the interests of the majority of the population and hurting unions' ability to continue to be leading on providing health care benefits. Others in attendance believe the ACA is moving in a positive direction.There was strong advocacy in the meeting for support for single-payer health care.

Dr. Frank Proscia, MD, President of Doctors Council, SEIU made a persuasive argument to one of the plenary sessions that it is still very early in the implementation of the ACA.He indicated that many factors that are unpredictable will ultimately determine the law's success.He emphasized that the best way to improve health care is to actually participate in improvement goals at the frontline of care…every day.He said that improved access, patient satisfaction, quality, and safety, and lowering cost must happen at the point of delivery of care.He added that Doctors Council was working with Cornell University to develop strategy for the full empowerment of frontline health care workers to lead on these improvement strategies.

Mitra Behroozi, Director of the 1199/SEIU Trust Funds pointed out that the ACA does not provide a direct pathway for lowering the cost of health care.She said that this must be the essential goal of the ACA along with ultimately guaranteeing high quality access to health care for all. In the same roundtable discussion with Behroozi, facilitated by Gene Carroll of Cornell's Worker Institute, Richard Gottfried, Chair of the NY State Assembly Health Care Committee advocated for his current single-payer bill pending in the legislature.

I was able to share that even if single payer legislation was passed, the savings from high administrative costs would not be anywhere near enough savings to sustainably reduce the cost of health care. The deepest costs are embedded in the delivery systems. I shared that we must support the movement to fully engage and empower frontline caregivers to collectively work to take out the estimated 30-50% waste of health care dollars currently in the $2.5 trillion annual spend. Health systems must shift to integrated systems based on prevention and the elimination of the risk factors for chronic conditions, the treatment of which accounts for 70% of total spending on health care. Additional substantial cost reductions must come from improved efficiencies, elimination of redundancies, medication errors, and other preventable harm to patients in hospitals. Ultimately, the only way to solve these problems is to mobilize the frontline towards these ends.

Keywords: John August, Affordable Care Act, ACA, frontline staff

Posted on: March 1, 2014

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