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Local News

September 3, 2013

Hospital exec eyes strategic partners

SOMERSET — Although its leaders are committed to having Somerset Hospital remain an independent community hospital, they will require some help, the hospital president told business leaders on Tuesday.

“Are we going to be able to do that without strategic relationships?” Somerset President and CEO Ron Park asked. “The answer to that is no.”

His remarks were part of the program at a Somerset County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Somerset Country Club.

“The Future of Healthcare Legislation Before, During and After Reform” also featured remarks by U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley; state Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar, R-Berlin; and consultant Michael P. Strazzella of Washington-based Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney.

While not identifying any “strategic partners,” Park described the intense competition between Pittsburgh behemoths UPMC Health System and West Penn Allegheny, now linked with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“Tension between Highmark and UPMC are making Pennsylvania one of the most significant health care markets in the country,” Park said.

While the Affordable Care Act is here to stay, Park said, there will be more adjustments coming in the future. Hospitals, he said, will have to tailor medical care for each individual in order to survive. He said hospitals can do this by providing access to a broad range of care, by focusing on the patient and by providing the care in a financially responsible way.

Rothfus agreed that the Affordable Care Act has become reality.

“Health care reform is not going away,” Rothfus said, repeating his concerns about the cost and increased federal deficit.

“I think there is room for continued reforming of the reform.”

He applauded President Barak Obama for delaying the requirement for employers to choose a plan, and noted that Congress delayed the same requirement for consumers.

“This plan is not ready,” Rothfus said. “I don’t think it is ever going to be ready. I think we need to take time out and really look for solutions.”

Both parties should work together on revisions, he added.

“There is room for bipartisanship,” Rothfus said. “It doesn’t need to be a Republican plan. There needs to be an American plan.”

Metzgar outlined his concern that the reform measures are to be administered by the federal government, using a state bureaucracy to illustrate his fear.

“I don’t want want to see (Department of Environmental Protection) running the health care program in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Strazzella is a government relations specialist and formerly served as an advocate for the American Hospital Association. He presented a slide show analyzing challenges from various components of the Affordable Care Act.

He agreed with Park that hospital affiliations will continue to make news as the reform advances, but urged leaders to work together to improve the current legislation. He noted that new laws have tweaked the Medicare program virtually every year since it was rolled out in 1965.

“I think people need to stop being defensive about the (Affordable Care) bill,” Strazzella said.

“There are pieces of this bill that are good; there are pieces that can be refined; and there are pieces that just miss the mark.”

Randy Griffith covers healthcare for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.

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