Blog | Monday, October 20, 2008

What the managers are thinking

I (and the rest of the press pool) had lunch with MGMA president and CEO William F. Jessee, MD, today and he offered some thoughts on current events.

Already, the effects of the economic meltdown are starting to be felt among MGMA member practices, who are reporting recent decreases in patient volumes. There are also expectations that uninsured populations will go up along with the unemployment rate. In addition, practices are now holding off on big capital expenditures, Dr. Jessee said. That's bad news for the MGMA conference, for one, since you can't walk the exhibit hall without tripping on an EHR vendor. "I'm curious to see how our conference will look next year," said Dr. Jessee.

The MGMA is challenging the next president to concentrate some of his administration's health reform energy on payment reform. "Neither of the candidates is addressing the core issue," said Dr. Jessee. Key points that he would like to see addressed: universal coverage (the MGMA has not taken a stand on single vs. multiple payer); changing reimbursement to reward physicians for keeping patients healthy; aligning incentives so that physicians, hospitals and payers can work together instead of against each other; and reducing administrative waste.

Toward that last goal, the MGMA is starting a big push for standardized patient ID cards. Right now, they're doing research to show that insurance cards with magnetic stripes or bar codes that have basic patient and payer info encoded in them would save time and money for everyone involved. The next step is getting payers on board with the idea. A small step toward simplifying the administrative nightmare that is modern healthcare. Says Jessee, "We pitched this one because it's so simple even a legislator can understand it."