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VOL. 127 | NO. 44 | Monday, March 5, 2012

2012 Should Be Busy For Health Care

By Ronnie L. Williams

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This year is positioned to be very interesting in the world of health care. From the Supreme Court hearing in March until the presidential election in November, health care is guaranteed a place in the news for the rest of the year. In addition to the big stories, some smaller health care stories will also grab some of the limelight as the medical industry deals with changing trends and developments.

In March, the Supreme Court is scheduled to listen to arguments regarding health care insurance and the requirement that Americans buy insurance or pay a penalty. The court has set aside almost six hours to hear the oral arguments and the outcome will most likely have an impact on the presidential election later this year. President Barack Obama’s administration is defending the requirement as a constitutional effort by Congress to address a national crisis while 26 states led by Florida and an independent business group oppose the law due to the belief that the requirement exceeds the authority of Congress.

As of yet, this year has not shown explosive, economic growth and the economy is an issue that permeates most industries, including health care. With high unemployment and underemployment, people will continue to delay treatment because of the lack of financial resources to obtain medical care. Without proper medical care, many folks may be asking Santa for a doctor’s kit for Christmas by the time we reach December. Between now and then, volumes and associated revenues will probably be soft at hospitals, ambulatory centers and physician offices.

To improve outcomes and lower costs in 2012, the medical community will focus on accountable care, bundled payments, patient-centered medical homes and clinical integration. These fancy terms all revolve around higher quality care for the patients and reduced costs for hopefully everyone involved. While implementation of these practices comes with certain challenges and obstacles, the rewards will be high for the patient and the health care system.

Similar to other industries, information technology developments will continue to enhance and improve solutions in the health care field. Information technology is an integral component in transitioning to new models where medical information is distributed in a timely and effective manner. Efforts to implement electronic medical records, computerized physician order entry and health information exchanges will become more widespread this year as health care providers work to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

No matter your political beliefs, everyone can agree that health care will be part of the discussion when the final contenders for the White House are decided. Leading up to November, the candidates will need to discuss their plans for dealing with Medicare and health care in general. The health care issue can be a lightning rod for debates and should have a major impact on the results at the polls.

Health care will be a hot topic in 2012, with the economy possibly being the only other issue to garner more attention. As the year progresses, the medical community will be watching with great interest to see what changes are brought forth from the highest offices in our land. Whatever happens this year, the changes will affect almost everyone.

Ronnie L. Williams is the director of finance for HealthChoice LLC.

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