Ray Montgomery of White County Medical Center on Fixing the Nation's Health Care System

During Ray Montgomery’s leadership of 24 years, White County Medical Center has acquired a local hospital, built a cancer center and undergone extensive facility improvements. Montgomery has served on the board of the American Hospital Association and now serves on the board of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care.

Q: How is WCMC preparing for the coming changes under Obamacare?

A: Our hospital and most of the other hospitals throughout Arkansas are facing major challenges with reimbursement cuts currently in play. My hope is that health care providers, commercial insurance payers and the state and federal payers can work together in developing transformational steps, which will improve quality and reduce costs in order to improve health care for our patients and our community.

Q: What are you telling your legislators about Medicaid expansion?

A: Medicaid expansion, or the private option insurance exchange program that is being discussed in the state Legislature now, is essential for our state, community and our working poor who need health care. The federal government is paying for health care coverage by taking resources from our state and returning the dollars for the expanded coverage.

Q: What would happen to WCMC if Arkansas doesn’t expand Medicaid coverage?

A: Hospitals throughout Arkansas will endure a profound financial impact if health care coverage is not expanded. Medicare cuts will be implemented in 2014 and will be far more serious if Medicaid expansion, or a private insurance exchange option, is not approved. Our communities will suffer and jobs will be lost. There are so many benefits to either expanding Medicaid or private insurance options, and I am hopeful that our legislators will agree as they analyze the choices and the current research. They are making great strides in vetting the best plan for all Arkansans under these difficult constraints.

Q: What is your biggest worry these days regarding your hospital and the health care system?

A: Unproven strategies that are instituted at the state and federal levels that are designed to address reducing health care costs are worrisome. The uncertainty surrounding those strategies is a concern for the health care system as a whole. We hope there will be enough “testing” to assure the success of these strategies. If they fail, we may find ourselves worse off than our current problems.

Q: Are there any easy solutions for fixing the health care system?

A: There are no easy solutions. We must keep the focus on improving care for our patients through the development and standardization of care modules, minimize costs and variation unrelated to the delivery of quality patient care, move from fee-for-service payment to a value-based population health payment model and implement strategies that require personal health accountability.

Q: What’s in the future for WCMC?

A: Regardless of insurance coverage expansion, our hospital will continue to serve the residents of White County and surrounding counties through innovative approaches to medicine and quality patient care. We are partnering with physicians, clinics and other providers throughout the region to provide a variety of services and care for patients in a high-quality and cost effective manner.