Joe Fifer

The moment has arrived for healthcare finance professionals to make their voices heard.


Last month, we saw the results of the fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington. For health care, the highlight was a one-year reprieve for physicians participating in Medicare—who had faced a26.5 percent payment cut—paid for with billions of dollars in cuts to hospitals, pharmacies, and dialysis clinics over a 10-year period.

Is it just me, or does it feel like we haven’t learned the lesson we were supposed to take from all of this?

CFOs are deadline people, so I don’t really mind that lawmakers waited until the last minute to pass a bill. What I object to is that everyone knew for 18 months that the fiscal cliff was looming, yet in the end, the fundamental, underlying issues were not addressed, including actions to make Medicare sustainable.

My question is: When will we get serious? When will we get serious about creating a broad-based healthcare payment model that rewards value? Although national leaders may not always frame the healthcare dialogue in terms of value, that is the core issue of our time.

Each day, thousands of healthcare finance professionals work to support patients and ensure the well-being of our organizations. We have the in-the-trenches knowledge of what it takes to drive value in our healthcare system. It is time for us to start sharing that knowledge publicly for the sake of our industry and our country’s well-being.

In 2010, physician ;and former U.S. senator Bill Frist spoke at HFMA’s annual conference. In an impassioned speech, Frist made the point that healthcare finance leaders are in the best position to do something substantive about the issues facing our industry. As he put it: “Somebody has to do something, and it’s going to be—it has to be—you.”

His point resonated with our audience. I also think he was spot on.

The reason HFMA launched the Value Project was to guide the transition from a volume-based to a value-based healthcare system, and to provide the resources that members of the healthcare community would need to make that transition a reality. As we continue to move along that path, it is increasingly clear that it may not be enough to pursue these ends just by sharing information among healthcare professionals. We also need to make our voices heard within a larger community. By communicating with policymakers, researchers, business leaders, and the general public—using whatever platforms are available to us—we can make sure that our voices help inform the debate about the future of health care. The time to stand by and watch is at an end.

For all of the transformations American health care is undergoing—and has yet to undergo—none will be more profound and necessary than this shift toward value. I hope you will join me in the coming weeks, months, and years in helping to make our voices heard by people who shape and who experience our healthcare system. The issues facing our country and our industry are too important for us to do anything else.

Publication Date: Friday, February 01, 2013

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