MOUNT VERNON — Kim Byas was the guest speaker at the Foundation for Knox Community Hospital’s annual meeting and election Wednesday evening at the Ohio Eastern Star Glenn A. Gallagher Centre.
Byas is a regional executive with the American Hospital Association and works with hospitals and health care systems in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. Byas’ topic for the evening was titled “The Health Reform Journey: Packing for the Long Road Ahead.”
“At the national level, health care coverage has been somewhat addressed. Locally, we have to figure out how to connect with people,” said Byas. “We have to look at the delivery of our system and understand how we work together. It is vital to know what is going on in Mount Vernon; then we can relay that to those in Washington, D.C.”
Claiming that health care has been talked about since the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Byas outlined a national framework of change which includes five principles: focus on wellness, most efficient affordable care, highest quality care, best information and health coverage for all, paid by all. “Together, these principles focus on health for life. We want to make sure we have coverage for all, paid by all ... no free riders,” said Byas.
Detailing a strategic plan for the year 2014 and showing what might be and what might not be in the plan, Byas explained three basic coverage models being employer provided health care, state health care exchanges (private plans) and public programs (Medicare, Medicaid, military Tri-Care, VA and federal health benefit plans). Components that would be missing include clinical integration, medical liability reform, controlling/reducing costs, comparative effectiveness, addressing utilization and physician supply. “If anything is going to slow down health care reform, legislation coming in January will tell us so,” said Byas.
“It is the objective of the federal government to reduce health care costs by $475 billion over three years,” said Byas. “Is it doable? Yes. But it won’t be pretty. It will cause some pain.”
Where will the money come from? In the years 2010 to 2019, out of a total of $1.1 trillion, 49 percent will come from spending cuts, and 51 percent will come from new taxes and fees, according to Byas. Where will the money go? In the same 10 years, out of $965 billion, 45 percent will go toward increased federal spending on Medicaid and CHIP; 47 percent will go toward premium and cost-sharing subsidies; and the remaining 8 percent toward small-business employer tax credits and other credits.
Challenges that Byas stated needing addressed are the need of 14 of 18 voters to make a recommendation; that the Republican appointees are dug in against tax increases; and that the Democratic appointees are dug in against cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits.
“I want to paint a realistic picture,” said Byas. “Health care reform is not going to come from the federal government. The situation is in our local hands.”
Thanking Byas for his presentation was Bruce Behner Jr., chief operating officer of the KCH Foundation. “Education is very important,” said Behner. “We need to get the word out to the community.”