County health leaders go to DC to talk reform
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Chi-Town Daily News
by Alex Parker
Two Cook County Health and Hospital System leaders traveled to
Washington last week to meet with Illinois Congressional leaders to
discuss health care reform, and its affect on the health system.
CEO William Foley, board chairman Warren Batts and county
governmental affairs representative Randy Mark met with Sens. Dick
Durbin and Roland Burris, and Reps. Mike Quigley, John Shimkus, Jan
Schakowsky and Bobby Rush, as well as representatives from the White House and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
At issue was legislative language on how safety net hospitals would receive supplemental Medicaid payments, known as DSH.
Batts says the laws floated by health care reform bills would reduce
over time the money hospitals would receive. He says further reduction
of Medicare reimbursement would harm hospitals' ability to treat poor
and indigent patients.
Batts calls the meeting successful, considering the ever-changing
status of health care reform bills, which seem to take new forms daily.
"This is a very critical thing," he says. "The way that is was going
was that if the bills that were on the table last week, this is going
to be a serious problem."
But given the lengthy nature of reform, any changes wouldn't hit the health system until 2013.
"The bills change by the minute," Batts says. "Eventually, if the
plan is put in place, sometime in the late 2010 decade, DSH money will
be reduced pretty sharply."
Batts and Foley also expressed their concerns
about universal health care - which they are not necessarily opposed
to, but could affect safety net hospitals, like Stroger Hospital.
"Some of the issues on the table could be
disasterous for safety net hospitals," Batts said Thursday at the
health system board meeting.
He and Foley cited the case of hospitals in
Massachussetts, where all residents have health insurance. Funding for
safety net hospitals has dropped, they said, as people go to other
hospitals, leaving safety net locations in the lurch.