April/May 2005

St. Vincent Leads Effort to Pass Patient Protection Act

Advocacy efforts by St. Vincent Health System, Little Rock, Ark., were instrumental in the recent passage of the state's Patient Protection Act of 2005.

The act, signed into law March 3, requires health plans in Arkansas to contract with any health provider willing to meet the plans' contract terms. “This new ‘Any Willing Provider’ law will allow competition to return to health care in Arkansas,” said Michael Keck, administrative director of advocacy for St. Vincent. “Competition was impeded for the past 10 years by an exclusive arrangement between the state’s largest insurance company and St. Vincent’s primary competitor.”

The entire St. Vincent organization was active in advocating for the new law. Employees, senior leaders and members of the board invited legislators for hospital tours and breakfast discussions. They sent letters and e-mail messages and made phone calls to legislators in support of the law. “The comprehensive effort led by Michael was very effective at informing and persuading legislators,” said Stephen Mansfield, president and chief executive officer of St. Vincent.

“Our message was simple,” Mansfield continued. “Patients and their physicians should be able to select their health care providers. Points of access, quality of service, cost and level of excellence - not the insurance company - should dictate where a patient receives care. We are pleased that the Arkansas legislature overwhelmingly agreed with our position, and we look forward to serving patients who for years have been denied their desire to seek care at St. Vincent.”

Kevin Lofton, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Initiatives, noted that the Arkansas law is likely to have a national policy impact and could affect other states with Catholic Health Initiatives facilities. “St. Vincent has set a great example of the enormous impact a well-organized advocacy program can have on the public policy process,” he said. “This legislation was opposed by some of Arkansas’ most influential business interests, yet with persistence St. Vincent’s position prevailed.”