In a little more than six months, the Affordable Care Act will change the lay of the land for healthcare in this country. For hospitals, it continues changes that started a decade ago, says Richard Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association, who was in Syracuse Monday.
Umbdenstock says for hospitals, it's a fear of the unknown that is at the core of the concern.
"It's a massive undertaking to move a health care system from one set of incentives, to a new set that's yet to really be defined. And so we're in that transition period now, and that's what has hospitals so anxious, is how to make the transition from here to an as yet undefined future," he said.
Umbdenstock says hospitals will have to learn to live within a more fixed amount of money as flat payments become the reality as opposed to payments for services. He also says hospitals will need to become more accountable.
The hospitals association president says that change means the ongoing stream of cuts in payments from the state and federal government. Ultimately, he believes, hospitals will be doing less with less.
"We actually try to do less intensive, less costly interventions with you earlier, and keep you healthy and out of the system. And having completely changed the financial incentives to do that. But at some point you want to figure out how to keep whole populations healthy and out of the hospital," Umbdenstock said.