City, News, Politics

Mass. Rep. Steve Walsh chosen to lead Council of Community Hospitals

Mass. Rep. Steve Walsh resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives Tuesday when he was selected to serve as the new executive director for The Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals.

Walsh, who has held his seat since 2002, was previously a co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. He worked with Mass. Sen. Brian Joyce, the committee vice chairman, who said he believes Walsh will be successful at his new position.

“Steve is a very bright and capable individual,” he said. “He’s been very successful as a chairman of a very important committee and the Massachusetts legislature. I have absolutely no doubt that he will be equally successful in his new position in the private sector.”

In 2012, Walsh, who is not related to newly elected Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, was responsible for drafting the Massachusetts Heath Care Cost Containment Bill, the first of its kind in the nation and the model for the Affordable Care Act, under former Sen. Mitt Romney.

Mass. Sen. Richard Moore, former chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, drafted the bill with Walsh.

“I think [Walsh] is a good choice in the part of the community hospitals,” Moore said. “He’s got a very good background. He certainly understands the political process and the legislative process, so I think he’ll be a good advocate for them.”

When Walsh became a chairman for the Committee, he had little experience with healthcare issues. To broaden his knowledge, he visited every hospital in the state and spoke to the hospital’s administrators about their issues and concerns, Moore said.

“His role in the community hospitals will be, I think, certainly very well informed by the effort he put forth, because he has visited each of the members of that group and their hospitals,” Moore said. “He also has an understanding of the impact of the larger teaching hospitals as well.”

The MCCH is a nonprofit organization that represents 17 community hospitals in Massachusetts. These community hospitals strive to provide affordable and quality healthcare, according to the MCCH website.

Moore said community hospitals play a strong role in the economy of their respective towns.

“They’re in most cases one of the largest employers in the community,” he said. “It’s getting harder in health care, not only here, but across the country for smaller organizations, whether they’re small organizations or community hospitals. [The MCCH] does a lot of business with the smaller companies in the community. They’re major economic engines, so we’re going to have to work with them to try to keep them stable.”

MCCH has difficulty when providing care to people on Medicaid because of the competition with larger hospitals, Moore said. As executive director, Walsh will work through these problems.

“The rates that [the hospitals] are reimbursed have increased a lot over the last few years,” he said. “The hospitals are looking for that money to be held so at least some of it can be used to improve the Medicaid rates so its not a burden to them to take care of people who are on publically funded help.”

Joyce said he is confident Walsh will be able to handle any issues that arise with the MCCH and advocate effectively for the 17 MCCH hospitals.

“He’s been both bright and collegial,” he said. “[He is] a smart and good person to work with, very capable, very good interpersonal skills. I can see why the community hospital association sought him as their new leader. He certainly has the skill set that any organization would look for as a leader.”

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