Hospitals have a social duty to champion patient empowerment and an economic responsibility to make sure as many patients as possible have medical insurance.
With one of every six Americans lacking health coverage, there's a whole lot of work to do.
The American Hospital Association has kick-started the process, we hope, by joining forces with two unlikely bedfellows--the oh-so-liberal Families USA and the buttoned-down Health Insurance Association of America. The healthcare troika recently agreed to pursue a plan to slice the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and creating tax incentives for employers. The sponsors say the plan could help provide coverage to as many as 20 million uninsured Americans.
But face facts; there is little chance of passing such a proposal anytime soon. Political gridlock will dominate Washington for the next few years. If any healthcare issue is to receive serious consideration, the Medicare prescription-drug benefit appears to be the safest bet.
That leaves the plight of the uninsured largely in the hands of employers and state and local governments. Individual hospitals and their leaders can make a difference by continually spotlighting the issue and encouraging community initiatives designed to boost health coverage.
State and local governments likely will devote their efforts to widening the safety net for children and the poorest of the poor. Healthcare providers should focus their attention on low-wage workers who either are not offered insurance or can't afford it.
Hospitals can help generate media attention, organize fund-raising efforts and coordinate local strategies with business and community groups.
If you want to share your success stories, write to me at 740 N. Rush St., Chicago, Ill. 60611, or e-mail me at [email protected]
Congratulations are two. MODERN HEALTHCARE legal affairs reporter Mark Taylor recently was honored for journalistic excellence by the Washington-based National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association.
* Michael Pfaff has joined the MODERN HEALTHCARE copy desk. Pfaff, 38, previously was a copy editor for the Daily Southtown, a suburban Chicago newspaper, and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia.