Healthcare administrators from around Western Montana met at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula on Thursday, September 19 to discuss the future of their industry in rapidly changing times.

Attendees from hospitals and clinics in Philipsburg, Plains, Hamilton and Dillon heard from a variety of speakers from federal, state, and regional agencies about healthcare reform, and the future role of hospitals in caring for the needs of Montanans.

Craig Aasved
Photo by Peter Christian

Craig Aasved, Regional Chief Management Services Officer at Providence in Missoula, said the smaller healthcare institutions in the area are simply not equipped to plan for the changing scope of medicine, and Wednesday's conference was a chance to compare notes and plan for the future.

"Where we started today was what was happening at the federal and state levels, and  then we began looking at the roll out of the new healthcare exchanges," Aasved said. "The overall intent is to realize that we're all in this together, big or small, and how can we work together on the things coming at us."

Aasved admitted that the current healthcare system is broken, and that hospitals and clinics are simply going to have to learn to live with smaller revenues.

"Hospitals have always been about filling up beds and doing procedures, but as we all know, the federal deficit and healthcare spending are out of control, and the way the system was designed is broken," Aasved said. "A new model is coming. Reimbursement is going to be less, so now it's going to be up to us to define what that's going to look like. I believe where we're going is to examine how much other care can be done outside the walls of an acute care hospital, and that's a fundamental change. There will always be a place for hospitals, but we need to be more creative and really aggressively reduce costs in the healthcare system, because if we don't do it, somebody else will do it for us."

Craig Aasved, Regional Chief Management Services Officer

Merry Hutton
Photo by Peter Christian

The subject of the Affordable Care Act took center stage as trustees and regional administrators prepared for the opening of the health insurance exchanges on October 1. Merry Hutton, Regional Manager of Ambulatory Behavioral Health and Community Benefits at Providence Health Center in Missoula is a true believer in what most of the country calls Obamacare.

"I'm trying to message the fact that the ACA (Affordable Care Act) represents the best opportunity for those who are uninsured or under-insured to really have healthcare coverage that they deserve," Hutton said. "On October 1st, with a minimal amount of information, they will be able to compare plans and know, based on their income, what tax credits and subsidies they may be eligible for, and where they can apply for and receive healthcare coverage."

Hutton said the federal subsidies will be automatically figured into an individual's healthcare premiums under the new insurance exchanges.

"It will all be calculated, so that what you pay on a monthly basis once your subsidy is factored in will be clearly stated," Hutton said. "Depending upon your income, there may be other subsidies available for things like doctor visits, co-pay and even premium assistance."

Hutton said that once Americans realize all that insurance reforms will do, they will wonder how they ever got along without them.

"I believe that once the public begins to realize the benefit of being covered by health insurance, and when they go to the doctor and the prices are so reasonable, and their health is improved, especially those who are currently uninsured, they will finally see that their costs will be so much less," Hutton said.

Merry Hutton, Regional Manager of Ambulatory Behavioral Health and Community Benefits at Providence Health Center:


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