Friday, February 15, 2013
Bruce Bailey, CEO of the Georgetown Hospital System may have provided more questions than answers Wednesday during the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce Food for Thought educational series luncheon, but he had nearly 100 people rapt as he tried to make sense of what the Health Care Reform Act and the Supreme Court ruling means to businesses.
He noted that the debate over health care reform, which he called a “political issue,” is not over.
“It’s a product of you all, as business owners, as employers demanding change, of Medicare and Medicaid demanding change. I think we all understand that the system as it stands is not sustainable, it’s not giving you the value that it should,” Bailey said.
He laid part of the blame on the health care reform needed on the EMTALA act, which requires hospital emergency rooms to treat anyone who shows up, regardless of their ability to pay.
“That law gives a lot of folks comfort that those who don’t have insurance are going to get their care. But he was pointed in his criticism of the act, calling it “the largest unfunded mandate in the history of America.”
He also had strong words for Americans in general and their role in contributing to the current problem.
On health care, he said, “most Americans want the best health care possible. They also want you to bill someone else — the government, my employer. And don’t bother me with my health behavior. Don’t tell me I can’t smoke. Don’t tell me I can’t eat what I want.”
That combination, he said, has contributed to additional costs within the health care system, translating to rising payments coming out of employers’ pockets to cover their workers.
Bailey said smoking is the single biggest cause of people coming to hospitals who wouldn’t otherwise need to be there. And combining that with obesity, that leads to chronic conditions, “that leads to a real problem of hospital utilization rates.”
“Somebody’s gotta pay,” he said. He pointed out that hospitals must charge higher rates to cover the cost of people who aren’t paying — $35 million and another $45 million who won’t pay.
“And that is passed on to employers and rising insurance costs,” Bailey said..
He noted that costs are likely to rise even more, with elimination of limits on coverage, and a relatively minor penalty for not having insurance.
“The business community needs to ask itself whether it will continue to provide health coverage or send workers to the exchanges — the ‘Amazon of health care coverage.’”
He brought it home to his hospitals, saying that if things don’t change, he will have to come up with $11 million in additional funding on a budget of $330 million, about 65 percent of which is salaries and benefits.
“There’s no question I will be hurting,” he said.
The good news is that there are things we can do.
“Get our state healthier. Change the reimbursement system to reward quality value outcomes as opposed to volumes. We get paid for volume right now.”
By Anita Crone
For The Times
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