Obama to be sworn in today, healthcare high on his agenda
The opening of the American Health Care Association's annual meeting took on a familiar air Monday afternoon in Las Vegas: A lot of proud retrospectives of a year gone by, prerequisite hand-wringing about the challenges ahead and numerous rally-the-troops messages from various leaders among the host group.
Actually, the general opening session came late Monday afternoon, which meant the many providers in attendance had time to walk the exhibit floor and attend several education sessions. Or just chat among themselves in the hallways. It showed.
When the message came from AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson that providers were “fighting for their survival” due to unprecedented threatened funding cuts, providers seemed fully aware already. As Parkinson pointed out, these are indeed not “normal times,” when the congregation might otherwise be engaged in fretting about whether funding would be up or down 1% or 2% before adjourning to cocktails.
He seemed to anticipate that he would encounter a crowd that seemed in search of answers more than simple information. That's why the “Do we let our critics defeat us?” and “Do we quit?” rhetoric was included. Vows that “we won't back down” and we'll “fight, fight, fight” were clearly offered to the assuage the many cautious, anxious glances in the crowd. But the fact is, there are serious threats to business as providers now know it, due to funding wrangling in Washington and tough times in the individuals states.
Near the end of Parkinson's speech Monday, as Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" played, the crowd did rise to its feet when asked to. By that time, members had learned that three extra Capitol Hill “fly-ins” had been added to the lobbying calendar this fall. These come on the heels of the usual AHCA Congressional Briefing, which was held in July.
If there was one message that resounded among the providers and their leaders Monday it was this: They have their work cut out for them, and know it.