"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Federal Ratings of Colleges and Universities

  As a college board member, I have been making sure that my fellow board members and the administration are aware that change is coming.  I have used health care as the example in that health care costs are unsustainable and the same can be said for college costs.  I have warned of greater accountability being on the horizon because I see it every day in health care.   We are responsible for the quality of care that is being provided to our patients.  We are held accountable for reducing admissions and readmissions, the use of ancillary testing, never events, a series of core measures, potentially preventable conditions and patient satisfaction.  All of which are very transparently rated, as well as rewarded or penalized.

 Last week, President Obama during his education bus tour announced his plan for improving the value of higher education.  He would like to link federal tuition subsidies to a federal rating system for colleges and universities.  These would be established rating systems created with input from the industry similar to health care.  They would not be the US News and World Report popularity-based rating systems that come out annually for colleges and universities as well as hospitals.  The critics are saying that they don't like the federal government deciding whether or not they are doing a good job.  They want the measure of a good college education left to the students and their parents.  Well, of course you do.  Why be held accountable for billions of dollars of education funds flowing to your colleges and universities?  As my mother used to say, "You can't have your cake and eat it too."  Colleges and universities lobby for more federal funding year after year but don't want any oversight over those funds.  Wake up! 

I support President Obama's concept of a rating system influenced by colleges and universities, but administered by the federal government.  What I won't support is anything comparable to the absurdity of CMS's Recovery Auditing Contracting process now in place for hospitals.   The RAC process is simply the government's way of not paying after the fact for appropriate patient care that has been delivered and incentivizing a third party to do so. The RAC process in its entirety has become a boondoggle with no relief in sight.  Can you imagine, a college providing four years, even two years of education and then have a third party auditor request the students’ records on behalf of the Department of Education?  The audit then results in a challenge and ultimately the third party auditor withholds all of the funding for that particular student's education, with the auditor getting a percentage of what the government refuses to pay.

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