Covert: I would rate President Obama on a scale of one to 10, probably at about a five, but I might actually give him a six at this point. And my reasons for doing that is one because he's created a visibility and a recognition that we're going to do something about healthcare, that reforms need to take place. Second because he has brought together people, at least in an open setting, to honestly try to talk about it. But I leave him there at this point for a couple of reasons. One, in the selection of Gov. (Kathleen) Sebelius—who I think can be a good pick—she obviously doesn't have the history or the background like Tom Daschle had, who knows the politics and the ins and outs of Congress when you're trying to craft legislation. And based on her previous experiences, that's critical. So it's sort of an open issue for me. I think at the same time the other issue is that the devil is always in the details. And so though he's laid out a reform agenda, whether or not he can craft it in such a way that it makes a difference and it gets down to people who need healthcare is still a question in my mind.
Transcript: Michael Covert, president and CEO, Palomar Pomerado Health
Covert: I think that's a real possibility to see that. Whether there's an agreement or not, whether from the House or the Senate. I think there's a recognition in Congress, and if I could take California as an example, where we really feel that we need to move, we need to make changes. The question is: What is that bill going to be fraught with in terms of pieces that may or may not be acceptable to aspects of the industry? I'm talking about the insurance industry, vendors much less, hospitals, physicians. And to try to craft that and bring them together, I think it's going to take a lot of work.
Covert: California, I like to say, is truly unique compared to any place now, and in my almost 40 years as an administrator. There are not only so many regulations that we must meet, the expectations that people have, the requirements from a standpoint of labor requirements, just simply because of the unions that we have and the expectations, the taxation requirements, the lack of reimbursement, the need for additional staff, when it comes to ratios of new nurses, per 100,000 population, we're some of the lowest in the country. Medicaid, or shall we say in our case Medi-Cal, reimbursement puts us at 49th per capita. There are not a lot of infrastructure programs that support—at least in Southern California and where I'm at in San Diego—that can support a lot of folks who are not in a position to care for people. And so we have a lot of what I refer to as community clinics that must be supported that I'm sure are affected these days financially. There's no government support to really help them, and so they have their issues and, you know, the emergency room becomes the backup for all of them. I think we have some issues dealing with, and these people's thought processes relative to immigration and who should pay for care, I don't think that's sorted out. But I think that's also an issue for us, and just simply the cost of living in California—between utilities, taxes, housing, the ability to recruit people is a tremendous challenge for us in Southern California.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.