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Making Your Voice Heard in Washington and Columbus

UH Clinical Update - July 2017

By Cliff A. Megerian, MD, FACS, President, University Hospitals Physician Services

Nearly all components of care that you provide your patients each day are in some ways undergirded by regulation or law. That’s why it is important for physicians to stay informed about developments in Washington and Columbus, and why our UH Department of Government and Community Relations plays a crucial role within our UH health system. Today I will focus on their work amid the uncertainties in health care affecting our patients, our hospitals, our physicians and employees, and the community we serve.

Our goal for current and future laws and regulations is nonpartisan and straightforward: We want to ensure affordability and access to health care and the elimination of unnecessary barriers to our doing what is best for patients.

Members of the UH Department of Government and Community Relations understand the business of health care and what our physicians and nurses need to provide the highest-quality care.

It’s always important that they hear from you, our providers, when you believe laws or regulations should be changed, or when you believe a new law or regulation should be adopted. 

We count on this feedback from you. Government and Community Relations extends your voice to elected officials.

In addition, the government relations team makes sure that they and UH leaders know elected officials and civic and career regulators at all levels of government. It’s crucial that these relationships are in place long before we need these leaders’ help in repealing, changing or passing laws and regulations. Another advantage of having long-term relationships is that we hear about proposed laws and regulations early – which makes it more likely we can influence the outcome.

Heidi Gartland, UH Vice President of Government and Community Relations (, and her colleagues, meet and communicate regularly with government officials. They host visits to UH hospitals so that officials can learn more about UH and health care, and they regularly travel to Columbus and Washington D.C. to meet with them in their offices.

As opportunities arise to lend knowledge and expertise, UH physicians, nurses and other leaders testify before legislative committees, meet with government officials and their staffs, submit written testimony to legislative committees during hearings, and offer formal comments on proposed rules to regulatory agencies.

On many occasions, information we provide helps shape outcomes. It’s important to be proactive, rather than deal later with ineffective laws or regulations.

In addition, our Government Relations department sees that UH leaders are considered for key government regulatory or study committees. We also work closely with trade associations that advocate on health care issues and support them with leader, physician and nurse representatives serving on their committees and boards.

Our CEO, Tom Zenty, has served on the Board of the American Hospital Association, and currently serves on the Ohio Business Roundtable and the Governor’s Executive Workforce board. Mike Szubski, UH Chief Financial Officer, has served on the Board of the Ohio Hospital Association for the past six-plus years. As President of UH Physician Services, I serve with Mike on the American Hospital Association’s Regional Policy Board.

A few more examples, among many, are:

  • Heidi Gartland and Patti DePompei, President of UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and the MacDonald Women’s Hospital, both serve on the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the Center for Health Affairs (NE Ohio’s hospital trade association). 
  • Dan Simon, MD, President of UH Cleveland Medical Center, sits on the American Medical Association’s Council on Teaching Hospitals. 
  • Kim Shelnick, UH Vice President of Talent Acquisition, serves on the Cuyahoga/Cleveland Workforce Board.
  • Steve Jones, President, UH Community Hospitals - East Region, serves on the state of Ohio’s Trauma Board.

UH has weighed in on some notable legislative actions:

  • Ohio’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act in 2013. UH and other advocates worked to support legislative approval to fund and enroll more than 715,000 low-income, uninsured Ohioans into Medicaid. 
  • Passage of federal legislation that allows children’s hospitals to become 340 (B) providers — which led to a discounted drug pricing program. 
  • Ohio legislation to allow physicians who did not complete a residency or fellowship in the U.S. to obtain an Ohio medical license by practicing at an academic medical center. 
  • More than $15 million in federal and state capital funds to assist with building UH’s Vision 2010 projects. 
  • A $25 million grant from the State of Ohio for the Harrington Discovery Institute.

Over the years, UH Government Relations also addressed numerous major Medicaid and Medicare funding cuts and supported a key regulatory change from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to allow our UH Rainbow pediatric intensive care unit to expand.

In addition to Heidi, our UH Government and Community Relations team includes Lolita McDavid, MD, Medical Director Child Advocacy & Protection; Dan Bucci, Director, Government Relations; Danielle Price, Director of Community Health Engagement; Elyse Bierut, Coordinator Government & Community Relations; as well as executive assistants Flora Smith and Laura Chiarelli.

Please be assured this team is exceedingly capable of keeping the best interests of our patients, nurses, physicians and UH, front and center.