BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee CEO Vicky Gregg will step down from her post at the end of this year and hand over the reins to Bill Gracey, the former LifePoint COO who joined the health insurer in the fall of 2010. Gracey, 58, has been handling BlueCross' government and commercial businesses.
"Over the past year and a half, Bill and I have worked to forge a strategy for moving the company forward in this quickly evolving health care landscape,” said Ms. Gregg. “Bill’s depth of health care industry experience and unique grasp of market dynamics will be a great asset to our members and the company as we navigate the future.”
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has released a 36-page white paper looking at the impact of health care reform specifically on Tennessee. This is the first report to be issued by BCBS’ Tennessee Health Institute, which it says is designed to “provide decision makers a fact-based, intellectual framework for public discussions on health care policy matters.”
Generally speaking, many Tennesseans who were previously uninsured will have better access to health care. That will in turn create a stronger demand for health care services. Since the number of providers will not increase in the short run, there will be a strain on the system’s ability to supply services. That may mean, generally speaking, worse access to services for those who are currently insured, unless they are wealthy enough to afford “concierge” medicine. Tennessee’s access problems likely will be somewhat worse than those of the nation at large.
Dr. Steven Coulter, who authored the report, had the following to say:
“The health care reform law represents the largest expansion of entitlement programs since Medicare was enacted in 1965,” said Coulter. “With an estimated 609,000 Tennesseans becoming eligible for Medicaid expansion coverage and an estimated 1.5 million qualifying for premium subsidies in 2014, there is a great deal that needs to be addressed to ensure a smooth transition.”
The report, which can be downloaded by clicking this link and then clicking the "research" button found under "current" topics, also outlines the reforms' primary winners and losers.
- The economically disadvantaged and/or those who have significant health care conditions who are not today covered will gain greater access to care.
- Some employers who shift their workers to the state based insurance exchange will likely experience an initial financial gain because their short term health care costs will be less than prior to reform.
And the losers:
- Those who currently have health insurance will likely experience longer wait times for care and find some of their costs increasing.
- Providers will find themselves in a market that has de facto price controls and will see their real dollar income drop over time.
The Tennessee Patient Safety Center says its push to improve the reliability and safety of care in the state's hospitals has produced some strong results: The incidence of various infections has dropped by 20 percent or more and complications from surgeries are down in a number of areas. The improvements have saved $11 million worth of follow-up care.
“When BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee partnered with the hospitals of our state more than three years ago, we believed the Tennessee Center for Patient Safety could be an important step toward improving the reliability, safety and quality of care received by patients,” said Vicky Gregg, president and chief executive officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “We are proud to have participated in creating a climate of change across the state that is gaining national recognition for its efforts. These results are a good foundation for accelerated progress in the years ahead."
The Tennessee Patient Safety Center was launched in 2007 and funded by a grant from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation. It now works with more than 120 hospitals.
Ben Leedle, president and CEO of Healthways, has been elevated to a two-year term as chairman of the Nashville Health Care Council. Leedle succeeds Joey Jacobs, who put in a three-year term at the helm of the trade group. In addition, the following big names have been named new members of the board: BlueCross President and COO Bill Gracey, Vanderbilt Health System Deputy Vice Chancellor Wright Pinson, Saint Thomas Health Services President and CEO Mike Schatzlein and Community Health Systems Chairman, President and CEO Wayne Smith.
Nashville residential addiction treatment center Cumberland Heights is finding its financial footing following the termination last year of its contract with the benefits manager for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, a loss that forced the facility to lay off a fifth of its staff.
According to Randy McClain's column in Sunday's Tennessean, the organization's tactics for attracting self-pay patients from a braoder geographic area has paid off: The organization is now bringing in 10 percent more patients from outside the state and 17 percent more treatment days are self-pay accounts — helping Cumberland Heights increase first-quarter revenue by 3.6 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010.
West Tennessee Healthcare officials argue that removing the antitrust protection would eliminate their ability to fund certain charitable organizations and health care options by reducing net revenues. The organization is the fourth largest TennCare provider in the state. Officials have said the West Tennessee Healthcare system writes off millions each year in unreimbursed, under-reimbursed and uncollected patient accounts and that losing even a portion of the commercially insured account base could hurt its bottom line. State Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, said Friday that it is "almost certain" that bills attempting to eliminate the antitrust law will be resurrected this year. Eldridge opposed the legislation last year.
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