Setting a new vision for AHCA
In his first in-depth interview since becoming president and CEO of the American Health Care Association in July, Hal Daub explains why he took the job and what's in store for members and other stakeholders. The admitted policy wonk is a former Nebraska mayor and U.S. congressman intent on making a long-range impact.
Q Only half-jokingly, some people might call you crazy for taking this job. Why do this, and why now?
A When I was contacted and presented with this professional opportunity, I read carefully through the job description and did some preliminary research and concluded this job opportunity was as if a tailor had fit it to me like a hand to a glove. The reaction was one basically of just elation. I have always enjoyed and appreciated the challenge of making wise and workable policy. That is a passion for me.
My work as chairman of the permanent Social Security advisory board for the last three years in particular whet my appetite for the dramatic aging demographic in for our future. When you look ahead at the next 30 years and see more people over 65 than in our active workforce, you can see the challenges ahead.
This is kind of a rough-and-tumble public policy arena in a way. But the end result is we think about our patients not just as aged and frail, but also those who are disabled, who need subacute or skilled nursing care. And what an evolution has occurred up to this point. I think my excitement is being part of this revolution that has to take part.
Q What, in your opinion, are the absolute necessary traits to get the job done right?
A It is going to take executive management skills and, hopefully, a tactful bedside manner, persistence and focus. And, I think, a real effort to be more pro-active to elevate the profession in the eyes of the policy makers, as well as the public, who rates quality of care.
The national search committee came up with a list of names while doing its work and my name came up from a number of their contacts. To begin with, quite honestly, I told them, 'No thank you.' I have a robust private practice in a more than 300-member firm and have achieved the kind of practice I had planned in three years. And, of course, I love Omaha -- I was mayor for more than six years.
I was enjoying life so this kind of was a call out of the blue. They called back three days later and said would you at least look at the package?
Reading it was like a bolt of lightning. And I spent a fair amount of time doing my due diligence relative to this opportunity, too.
Q When did you first truly envision yourself as the top executive of the nation's biggest nursing home association?
A The day that I got the packet of information from the search team. I reviewed it and said, 'You can leave my name on your list.' I think they sorted the list to 10 and then to 5. They interviewed all five of us in Washington. I was told they would narrow it down to two, but I'm pleased to say they deliberated and called me on the phone. The seven-member search committee recommended that I be extended the offer, without the final step they had planned.
By virtue of my background, training and experience, it fit like a glove.
At moments, I feel like a mayor again -- a lot of shuttle diplomacy and keeping in touch and consensus gathering. A federation moves more slowly than a true association. You have to gather that consensus.
Development of policy to some is a little frustrating, but if you look at it carefully, you have more than 10,000 facilities, both for-profit and not-for-profi