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Change washing over health care system, say summit speakers [Reading Eagle, Pa.]

By Dan Kelly, Reading Eagle, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 02--For the first time in his long career in health care, Reading Health System President and CEO Clint Matthews admitted he is excited and scared.

"This is the most exciting and scariest time of my career with all the changes going on," Matthews told about 120 employers, insurers and health care providers at the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry's 2013 Health Care Summit on Friday morning in the Inn at Reading, Wyomissing.

Major changes to the way health care is delivered are quickly coming online as President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is rolled out.

Features of the act are changing the way doctors are paid, hospitals are reimbursed and patients are treated, Matthews said.

Matthews said about 30 percent of hospitals employed physicians in 2000. He said that figure rose to 70 percent in 2010 and is expected to rise to 75 percent in 2014.

Meanwhile, hospitals are being reimbursed at a flat rate for each illness. Reading Hospital gets a flat fee from Medicare whether a gall bladder patient is in the hospital for three days or five days, he said.

Dr. Kristen Sandel, president-elect of the Berks County Medical Society, said about half of medical school graduates are women and they want to get into an employment situation that will allow them to work a set shift so they can have more time with their families.

"Many are considering going part time much earlier in their careers than in the past," Sandel said.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is progressing in fits and starts, said John Morahan, president and chief executive of St. Joseph Regional Health Network.

"It was kind of messy starting out," Morahan said. "But we are now seeing better (patient) outcomes in terms of this transformation."

The summit also included employers and human resources executives who spoke of wellness programs they have been instituting in their offices in the past three to five years.

Dr. Jeffrey Burtaine, medical director for clinical client relationships at Highmark Blue Shield, said the employee wellness movement has grown progressively from its beginning days, when employers gave out hats and T-shirts to employees who participated.

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Now some employers make actual cash payments to folks who agree to get a health assessment, wear a pedometer and report their weight loss and other performance.

"The only thing that works is fear of loss of money," Burtaine said. "We gave people $300 and got 41 percent employee participation.

"We then threatened to dock their pay $1,200 if they didn't participate and we are now at 91 percent."

Contact Dan Kelly: 610-371-5040 or dkelly@readingeagle.com.

___

(c)2013 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.)

Visit the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.) at readingeagle.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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