Friday, January 27, 2012

Educating the American Public On Our Health Care Dilemma

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Perhaps many pictures, in this case illustrations, are worth many thousands of lives improved and dollars saved.

Jonathan Gruber, an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served as an advisor for both the Massachusetts and national healthcare reform bills, recently posted a video that through the use of simple narration and illustration aims to explain the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and healthcare reform in a way that everyone can understand.

The Affordable Care Act legislation has been called “A Thing of Majesty” by Dr. Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and I agree. The problem is a majority of the American people don’t know anything about this law, and don’t know anything about the problems this law is trying to fix.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch Mr. Gruber’s "Illustrating the Success of Health Care Reform" video Gruber cites a “crisis in American health care now” and I agree.   The video does an excellent job of explaining what the ACA will do:

  • Make insurance affordable and provide insurance coverage for an additional 32 million Americans
  • Eliminate discrimination against the sick and denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • Control health costs by establishing healthcare exchanges
  • Reduce the deficit

Gruber makes a point of explaining that the ACA is not a government takeover of insurance, but rather is an expansion of private insurance.  He notes the ACS does not force Americans to buy insurance they can’t afford and in fact includes an “affordability exemption” so no individual has to pay more than eight percent of their income for insurance.

We need more tools like this video to better educate our people on what the problems are with the present system because really smart people are fighting against the act without knowing what’s in it or even worse without knowing about the problems that it is trying to fix!

Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  It really isn’t about politics.  It’s about the huge burden that our present health care system places on our citizens, on our employers and small business owners and on our economy. Let’s at least understand what the issues are and then have an agreement that we’ll try to work together to find solutions.

What ideas do you have for how we can educate Americans on the burdens created by our current healthcare system? Please share your thoughts below.

Independent of what is going on in our healthcare market I want to remind people that GBMC has been a fixture in this community for more than 45 years. We will continue our work to be the health care system that treats everyone, every time, the way that we would want our own loved ones treated.  United with our private practicing and employed physicians, we will continue to serve the people of Towson and the region and drive ever-increasing value for those seeking their healthcare from us.

Great healthcare systems are not measured by the number of hospitals or buildings they own or the age or beauty of their physical plants. They are measured on what they achieve for the patients they serve. Therefore, our work for better health outcomes, better care experience, at lower cost and with more joy for those providing the care will continue with an increased fervor.

While we have not yet reached perfection, I want to share highlights of an email I received from a GBMC employee and some exciting news we received about how the hospital compares nationally with our peers.

Last Friday I was looking for a Raven's t-shirt in a local store.  I was wearing my GBMC Emergency Department fleece jacket, with my name.  I was talking with another girl that was also shopping for Ravens gear, although she was looking at the jerseys.  I had mentioned how nice they were and that I had never owned one.  She said she had many and found them to be good luck.  As I was talking with the girl, there was a merchandise supplier standing close by who kept looking at me and looking at my jacket.  He approached me and said, "So, you like those jerseys? You work for GBMC's ER?"  I replied, "Yes, they're great and I have worked in the ER for almost 9 years."  The man became a little emotional and said to me, "You guys saved my mother's life.  Just before Christmas my mother was in heart block and your ER caught it, cared for her and got her off to be stented. Because of your wonderful staff, my family and I were fortunate to spend another Christmas with my mother.  I cannot thank GBMC's ER enough for everything they've done for my mother and my family."  It took everything to hold the tears back, and maybe one or two slipped out.

This man told our colleague of an episode where we had treated his mother the way we would want our own loved one treated. Way to go ED staff! 

Finally, I’m proud to report that GBMC is one of 263 hospitals that ranked among the top five percent of the nation's hospitals, according to a survey by HealthGrades, a consumer group which tracks information on hospitals and doctors. The survey, which reports Baltimore-area hospitals provide the best patient care in the country, looked at clinical outcomes across 26 of the most common diagnoses and procedures.  Go and look at the hospitals that HealthGrades says are making Baltimore the best city in the country to get care… may be surprised. You can read more in the Baltimore Sun.


  1. What is conveniently missing from this blog is the fact that 10 years of taxes are collected to provide for 6 years of healthcare. Would you buy a car and pay 6 years and only be able to drive it 4 years? Would you buy a house and get a mortgage for 30 years and only get to live in it for 24 years? Would you send your son or daughter to college and pay for 7 years and only get 4 years worth of credits? If you answered no, then you will take comfort when this bill is rendered unconstitutional by the supreme court. Also missing from this post is how preventitive care such as colonoscopys are covered but procedures to remove cancerous or suspicious tissue are not. In other words, your colonoscopy is free if you are healthy, but will cost you out of pocket to get your tissue removed, analyzed, and sent to your physician.

  2. Thanks for commenting, anonymous. Boy, if your facts were correct this would be a crazy law. The law is the beginning of a redesign of our health care system that will lower costs. The Affordable Care Act will reduce Medicare costs over the long run. There is no provision to make beneficiaries pay any more to remove tissue found on a colonoscopy than they do now. What would you suggest we do to improve health outcomes and lower cost?

  3. Can we get rid of the insurance companies? It seems like they don't coordinate healthcare well and deny needed procedures. They also seem opposed or unable to change. I was struck by your story. It reminds me that healthcare should be about saving the lives of our loved ones. If I feel like Gbmc could best treat me with quality service and dignity am I able to choose you. I'm 34 and finally have regular insurance through united healthcare. I haven't had a physical in 10 years because I only had high deductible HSA insurance in case of catastrophe. Could you recommend a good primary doctor with GBMC that takes my insurance?

    Steve 410 369-6975

  4. GBMC is the absolute best ER. About a year ago my husband came to the ER with a BP in the 70's and had shaking chills from urosepsis. After triage he was immediately taken back to a room and 2 IV's were promptly inserted and IV fluids were given wide open. Within minutes an ER doctor was in and and an IV antibiotic was hung. The nurse was fabulous. Was constantly in and out to check on him. He had to stay overnight in the ER because there were no beds available in the ICU until morning. My husband was a very sick man but everyone acted very promptly and effeciently and he was released in a few days. I am a nurse and I was very impressed.

  5. There is a reason more than 50% of the population wants this law repealed. The cbo announced immediately after the passing of this bill that the cost estimates were grossly inaccurate. You stated that this bill will reduce the deficit yet by collecting taxes for 10 years and providing service for only 6 it is obviously non-sustainable. As for the medicare issue, this bill adds an additional 30 million consumers to medicare while at the same time stripping its source income by almost half to provide for the uninsured. I would start the entire bill over keeping preconditions and children up to the age of 26. Tort reform, portability across state lines, and not adding millions to the health care rolls immediately would be an option.

  6. Steve, someone will call you to get you the phone number to access a new primary care doctor.

    Deena, thanks so much for recognizing our great Emergency Department Team! I am very proud of them and grateful for their hard work.

  7. I think people should have insurance if they want it, but to say that you will mandate someone to have it and say it is great because you only have to pay a max of 8% of your pay is ridiculous. The people who are saying this have obviously never been part of the working poor. If you make $1000/mo that means you must spend $8o/mo on healthcare. Rent for a 1 bedroom alone is at least $600. Then add some food, clothes, utilities, transportation, other necessities and if you have a child...well God help you. I know all this because I was there and to mandate that I pay for something out of my hard earned money that I couldn't afford is wrong and frankly un-American.

  8. I think GBMC has a great balance of medical services, support programs and professionals, excelling in a multitude of specialties that will continue to provide the care our community needs. Our emphasis has always been on customer service and I think we should work on interlinking hospital wide programs more effectively. When you think about the different area hospitals, each one stands out as having a specialty. I believe we have multiple specialties that many of us are completely unaware of. We should look at being the front runners for new and innovative ideas that are not cost prohibitive. I am all for technology but let’s face equipment is very expensive and in three years current statistics will show that what we are now learning will be out dated. That can certainly imply a great deal about our technology investments. We need to be financially conservative with our investments but progressive in our thinking and views. When looking at continued cultural trends, birthing methods, patient’s requests, and customer service and support are we making decisions that better suit our facilities and staff our patients? We also need to always remember that a happy and satisfied employee who wakes up every morning looking forward to going to work at a wonderful place like GBMC will project that attitude thought out their days work. It would be difficult to convince me that during this challenging financial market, expansion would be in anyone’s best interests. Growth does not always have to have a dollar sign beside it; it just has to have good people behind it.
    Lanny Dowell


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