Faith and Politics Intertwine as Timmering Drives LTC Change by Leading Legislative Efforts

It’s no secret that sweeping change is taking place in health care, with both delivery and payment models in a state of upheaval and uncertainty, demanding that health care operators not only take note, but take action.

Signature has long worked to build relationships with lawmakers, with Director of Legislative Affairs Kathy Gallin making considerable headway during the past few years. Gallin has drawn numerous local, state and national officials to Signature events, helping residents and stakeholders voice opinions about pertinent issues to their elected representatives and exercise their ability to push for positive change.

Now the company is expanding its government relations efforts, a process that is being helmed by Dianne Timmering, now Vice President of Spirituality and Legislative Affairs.

“We are more than 80 percent funded by the federal and state government – they control our reimbursement stream,” she said. “We have to be involved.”

Signature has quickly aligned itself with other providers in the fight for an improved and more efficient health care system, and a friendlier climate in which those providers can operate. The company has joined or has plans to join various state and national health care organizations, including the American Health Care Association this year and the Kentucky Hospital Association in 2015.

“We’re not just skilled nursing anymore, and we’re not just long term care,” she said. “It’s next-level integration.”

As further evidence of the need for deeper involvement in the political process, she points to several examples, such as the shift away from a fee-for-service model and toward a bundled payment system, along with states transitioning to a case-mix system and legislation that would pave the way for a site-neutral payment system between inpatient rehab facilities and skilled-nursing centers.

“Being on the forefront of a good site-neutral bill, for example, could tip the reimbursement quotient,” she said. “Not overnight, but in a couple year period of time.”

Given her background, Timmering is more than equipped for the job. She spent several years in Washington, D.C., as a policy enthusiast and political fundraiser, even working for Bob Dole and later serving as a lead advance representative and messaging expert for Pres. George H.W. Bush.

During this time she traveled the world, developing messaging on policy impact and creating events for the president. Timmering worked with local embassies and met with global political leaders alongside the president as he worked to strengthen diplomatic relations between warring nations, among other efforts.

An entrepreneur first, she later became a self-proprietor and worked as a fundraiser – helping drum up millions of dollars in support for various political and trade organizations, associations and not-for-profits – before venturing into the private sector.

Dianne joined Signature (HQM at the time) late in 2005 and co-created, alongside Signature President Joe Steier, what would become the company’s Spirituality Pillar. The unit now employs more than 100 chaplains and support staff, operating a $4 million annual budget.

Timmering, who holds Master’s degrees in Fine Arts (Writing) and Business Administration, vows that while her new role is demanding, it does not come at the expense of the Spirituality Pillar – and that the two are more intertwined than they might initially appear.

Her policy vision is to take the outcomes of several qualitative studies now being conducted by her chaplain army in the field, and to show CMS within five years the efficacy of spirituality in the integration of overall care where it has reduced anxiety and depression, or the power of prayer over a stage 3 pressure sore.

“There is a spiritual essence to the political piece, and that is ensuring the survivability of an industry to take care of the most vulnerable, the sickest and the least among us as good stewards of our people and the government funding provided.”

“Spirituality is such a movement now within the company and embraced by so many,” she went on to say. “It’s not because of any one person that it’s successful at this point. The power of spirituality is the freedom to choose to be, to plug into individualized spirituality, whatever that means to them. That’s the culture and climate we’ve been able to create here.

“And now it’s this explosive effervescence that we live and breathe as a company, and therefore spirituality kind of walks around the halls with us. And that’s exciting.”