Health leaders react to Fisher’s comments

March 1, 2012

Health leaders react to Fisher’s comments

Madison hospital leaders fired back at Dartmouth professor Dr. Elliott Fisher for comments he made last week during a stop at the state Capitol. Fisher, who is commonly hailed as the father of accountable care organizations, said that the growing arms race between UW Health and Meriter Health Services will increase area health care costs. “If there is anything I have learned, it’s that adding capacity will add cost to your community,” he said. “We need to figure out where we should compete and where we should collaborate. It’s not too late to have an important and meaningful conversation about what really counts.”

Meriter CEO Jim Woodward called Fisher’s comments “inappropriate.” “The Madison health care market is extremely unique and extremely integrated,” Woodward told Wisconsin Health News. “His comments belie the fact that there is quite a bit of integration and quite a bit of collaboration amongst the institutions.”

Meriter’s strategies have helped decrease admission costs, Woodward said. “Everything that you see we are doing, from building to hiring new physicians, is related to the new health care environment we are going to be asked to work under as part of the health care reform initiatives at the federal level,” he said. “The focus is reducing costs.”

UW defended its need for more beds.

“We agree that it is important for health care providers to collaborate where possible, and UW Hospital has several successful collaborations with Meriter as well as with other health care providers,” said UW Health in a statement. “Our analysis of future bed capacity indicates that UW Hospital and Clinics needs more bed capacity to address regional transfer patients whose medical needs are for the most complex level of specialty care, best provided by an academic health center.”

The public should have a greater say in health care infrastructure projects, said Alliance president and CEO Cheryl DeMars.

“Adding to our health care infrastructure increases costs that are ultimately passed on to employers and consumers,” she told Wisconsin Health News. “We need a mechanism to ensure that the public interests are more directly represented in these decisions.”

Wisconsin Health News is an independent, nonpartisan online news service. For a free trial to its daily email newsletter, contact Tim Stumm at tstumm@wisconsinhealthnews.com.

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