By Melissa James, Associate Director, Policy Analysis
Today wraps up the National Conference of State Legislatures 2010 Legislative Summit. The annual Summit brings together legislators and legislative staff from across the country to discuss the biggest policy issues facing the states. N.A.C.H. has partnered with children’s hospitals to exhibit at the Summit for the last four years. The exhibit gives us a chance to get in front of state legislators, their staff and staff from other organizations to talk with them about why children’s hospitals are critical for all children. To say this is a big meeting is an understatement—several thousand people attend, even some who have traveled from overseas. There are always a number of nationally known speakers, learning sessions on a wide set of policy issues and many events that highlight the best the hosting city has to offer; since this year’s Summit was held in Louisville, KY, that meant country music and horse racing.
My colleague Liz Parry and I flew to Louisville early to attend a pre-conference on health care reform. The agenda was jam-packed with sessions on topics that N.A.C.H. is following closely. We heard from several policymakers from Utah regarding their experience with implementing a health insurance exchange pre-health reform. Jay Angoff, director, Office of Consumer Support and Insurance Oversight at HHS (which will be overseeing the private market reforms under health reform) discussed some of the options for state flexibility when designing exchanges. Cindy Mann, director, Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey & Recertification at CMS, explained how health reform will shift Medicaid from being a safety net program to a foundation for health care coverage. And health care administrators from a few states talked about challenges to the health care workforce and how they might impact access to care. Although much of the material was familiar to Liz and me, it was a good opportunity to hear what state lawmakers are hearing about health reform. I can only imagine how overwhelmed they were to learn about all the issues that need to be addressed, many of them immediately, to implement the new federal health reform law.
After the health reform pre-conference came my favorite part of the Summit —staffing our “All Children Need Children’s Hospitals” booth in the convention center’s exhibit hall. Over the three days the exhibit hall was open, we greeted hundreds of people as they browsed among all the exhibit booths in the hall. I am always amazed and humbled by the outpouring of support people express for children’s hospitals when they stop by our booth—nearly everyone had a connection of some sort to share. This year we talked to a state legislator whose son’s life was saved by a children’s hospital after staff there attributed his illness to a spider bite, which other providers had failed to discover. Others generally praised the care families or friends had received, which still others relayed their pride in participating in fundraisers for their local hospitals. Working in the booth always underlines for me what an important mission our member hospitals serve in their communities.
Now it’s back to the office, to promote policies that will allow our children’s hospitals to continue serving that important mission. With the sound of the mariachi band that heralded the Summit’s 2011 destination of San Antonio, TX, still ringing in my years, I am already looking forward to exhibiting next year!