The women of Boston’s Healthcare Businesswomen’s Assn. are acutely aware of the hurdles in healthcare reform, and they’re not going to take them sitting down. Participants critically evaluated the implications of the Affordable Care Act during a 2-hour panel discussion yesterday.
Despite the 2.3% medical device tax facing the med-tech industry and the uncertainty caused by the ACA reforms, the panelists spoke confidently about each challenge as an opportunity in hiding.
"I have been in this industry for 20 years, and I learned in my first year that you really have to take action to influence reform – you can’t just be a recipient," said Tamima Itani, vice president of global affairs at Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX). "I don’t believe in us being victims. I believe we can shake up the industry."
The 6 panelists included high-ranking women from the payer, provider and manufacturer segments, speaking to a group of 250 at Boston’s Hotel Lagham in an event organized by the volunteers of the Boston Chapter of the HBA. Moderated by healthcare journalist Martha Bebinger, the panel discussion covered a wide range of topics in healthcare reform.
For Samantha Singer, vice president of corporate strategy at Biogen Idec (NSDQ:BIIB), the big "moral issue" in healthcare reform is that research & development is 1st on the chopping block as the excise tax on medical devices looms next year.
"If we were to stop investing, we’d be destroying the company 10 years from now," she said. "We are as lean as we can be as a company … but the only place you have true discretionary spending is the ability to cut costs in R&D."
According to Itani, healthcare reform is a unique challenge because it is being funded by manufacturers.
"In this cost-challenged environment, we are focusing on technologies that decrease costs for patients," she said. "It’s not just innovation for the sake of innovation. With $10 billion spent on R&D collectively and now $20 billion in taxes, you can see the math is not in our favor."
The panel discussion revolved around other cost-saving measures in healthcare, such as tele-health, virtual doctors’ visits for healthcare providers and strategic partnerships for payers.
Keri Collette, president of the Boston Chapter of the HBA, has made it her goal to involve even more women from medical device companies at HBA events. Healthcare reform inspires discussion, Collette said, and is a great way to step back for a heightened perspective. She selected the women in the panel based on their executive-level statuses at various healthcare companies.
"When we’re talking about an innovative topic, it’s nice to look in the mirror and see women at those high level positions," Collette told MassDevice.com. "The whole goal is to encourage women to understand all the different dynamics of the industry."
So what was the big take-away from all this networking, brainstorming and panel discussions? Across the board, the theme was "adaptation." All panelists embraced the ACA as an opportunity to build more efficient healthcare processes.
And despite obvious concerns about the medical device tax, the 2 panelists representing manufacturing companies expressed their belief that quality innovation will continue under an affordable healthcare model.
"These problems are not going to go away," said Buket Grau, President of the HBA and Director of Global Commercial Strategy at Stryker (NYSE:SYK). "Innovation is being challenged due to many factors. I think it’s critical at this moment to be building alternative business and leadership models."