I’ve been spending the last few weeks at some hospitals talking to folks in the trenches. Much has been made of the impact of healthcare reform on patients (both the benefits and the drawbacks), pharmaceutical companies and medical device firms. Physicians have also been vocal. But until I spent time at some hospitals, I just didn’t realized how screwed our healthcare system will actually be when this law takes effect.
When Massachusetts enacted its own version of healthcare reform and universal coverage, patients came – to the emergency room. Wait times at hospitals from Springfield to Boston exploded and some patients with legitimate emergencies died as resources were drained by the newly insured. We’re not on the eve of this same thing on an unprecedented scale as millions of individuals living in the U.S. will get healthcare coverage. And come they will – most likely to the emergency room. And costs will continue to explode.
It is a tragedy that President Obama spent a year to enact healthcare reform that will neither reduce healthcare expenditures or provide better quality care. What we did do is trade better healthcare for some for lesser care for nearly all. In fact, it’s more than a tragedy – it’s criminal.
Nowhere is that more obvious than the hospital emergency rooms where I’ve spent my week. Hospitals are struggling with volumes now, they will be absolutely broken if patient volumes increase just 7-11%. At the same time, margins are thin. In the wake, we’ve already seen St. Vincent’s in New York close just days after the passage of healthcare reform. The result, patient volumes at nearby Bellevue Hospital have spike over 20%. And wait times have exploded.
For year’s we’ve seen practice after practice roll-out the “Medicare NOT Welcome Here” signs. As healthcare reform fails to stem the spiraling costs and patients find themselves getting less and less, we will come to realize that a golden opportunity for real and meaningful healthcare reform has been squandered. And chief among the failures was not to (finally) address medical malpractice.
Hospitals were nearly broken before healthcare reform, they will be broken now. And it is a tragedy that President Obama and Speaker Pelosi refused to push for real healthcare reform.