PeaceHealth Is at Peace with Concept of Health Care Reform

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), January 24, 2010 | Go to article overview

PeaceHealth Is at Peace with Concept of Health Care Reform


Byline: Mel Pyne For The Register-Guard

The election of Scott Brown to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts changes the political calculus in Congress, but it does not change the imperative for health care reform or the fact that we are still closer to passing reform than ever.

Achieving health care reform may take longer, and Congress may even have to start over. But a lot of hard work has been accomplished, and a lot of hard decisions have been made.

The legislative packages that are in play today constitute a good, if imperfect start. Taking the long view, we are making significant and historic progress toward a more humane system of universal access to health care.

With the prospect of sweeping change before us, more and more people in our community are wondering how health care reform will affect them. PeaceHealth has been closely tracking developments in Washington, D.C., and we endorse many of the changes contained in both the House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation. These include expanded access, new quality measures and insurance reforms such as prohibiting the practice of refusing to insure someone who becomes ill.

PeaceHealth is in a unique position to evaluate reforms because we experience them ourselves as hospitals and doctors, as employers and as patients. Moreover, we are the region's largest provider of health care services.

As much as anyone, we have a stake in the outcome of health care reform. For that reason, I'm often asked about PeaceHealth's position on reform. And while there is a great deal of uncertainty and many technical details that remain to be worked through - with significant implications for the business of health care - I prefer to focus on the big picture.

What is the purpose of true health care reform?

The answer lies in a mantra familiar to all in health care: cost, quality and access. We must provide high quality care at an affordable price to everyone. If we can do that, we will have succeeded. So simple to say, and so difficult to do. Two out of three are easier to accomplish, but all three at once have proven impossible, until now.

The reason I'm optimistic that we will make significant progress toward achieving the triple-aim of health care reform this time is because the crisis has reached the tipping point. On top of the already unsustainable trend of ever- rising health care costs came the recession, which affected virtually every American and galvanized action.

Too many people are losing health care coverage, or are finding the coverage they have to be either insufficient or unaffordable. No matter one's party or politics, the need for reform touches us all.

To be sure, Congress has emphasized access over cost and quality, and the financing measures in the legislation will be painful for some and unpopular with more. Still, we must give reforms a chance to work. …

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