Navigating health-care policy


by William Daroff

Sandy Teplitzky is a lawyer in Baltimore who represents health-care providers every day. Last week, his Jewish activism took him to Washington, D.C., as co-chair of a summit organized by The Jewish Federations of North America that focused on the critical changes in the delivery of health care and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The health-care industry is evolving due to many factors, including changing demographics, technology and the sweeping ACA. The summit meeting provided a critical opportunity to discuss how these changes will affect the delivery and sustainability of health-care services and how the transformational law will affect virtually every Jewish communal health-care provider and the people that they serve.

For Teplitzky and others, the Jewish community has high stakes in the new law, which aims to extend health care to all Americans. This issue is on everyone’s mind, and it should be so that we can best navigate the law for the benefit of our constituencies, to find new opportunities for those who are provided services on a regular basis, and to avoid pitfalls that may cost us precious time and financial resources.

One particular area that we and other community leaders are paying special attention to is the substantial level of federal funding for long-term care and whether the new health-care law will alter such support. Close to 20 percent of American Jews are age 65 or older, compared with 13 percent of the general population, putting the issue of long-term health care high on the communal agenda. Given these factors, the Federation network is already hard at work to get ahead of the curve and answer some important questions for our network of providers. For instance, how can we capitalize on emerging funding streams within the act and use the law to build a stronger network of providers? Will the law open new doors to partners and those we provide services to on a regular basis? And what will our network look like in 10 or 20 years because of this law’s implementation?

Understanding the answers to these questions and key components of the Affordable Care Act is important to our advocacy on behalf of vulnerable populations. We are mindful of how leaders from across Federation communities can best advocate to ensure the law is put into effect fairly. Our message to the administration and Capitol Hill is clear: We must reform health programs carefully and sustainably, and understand the impact of reform on the most vulnerable as well as on our nation’s economy.

Unfortunately, though, it seems like the only way to get Washington to act these days is to create a self-imposed deadline. If Congress does not act, we may see a crisis in care that would rival the impact of the country defaulting on its debt, the fiscal cliff and the government’s closing. The trouble is, this crisis won’t create air traffic delays, or cause a default on U.S. Savings Bonds tomorrow. But if unresolved, the long-term consequences could be devastating not only to our national economic health, but for older Americans and our ability to support them.

With the implementation of health-care reform, we are at the precipice of major change. We are working to ensure the best delivery of care for older Americans and the vulnerable populations that the Jewish Federation network of provider agencies serves. Beyond that, we want Jewish agencies to build networks with other nonprofit agencies to deliver better, more affordable health care.

We all must stay involved on how to move forward under the new law. JFNA will continue to serve as a resource to lay and professional leaders of Jewish Federations, to help make the most effective decisions locally. Together, we can reposition and strengthen the health-care partnerships that will serve our networks – and, most importantly, serve our at-risk communities – well into the 21st century.

William Daroff is vice president of public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America.

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