TOM WARD - The health care 'we deserve'
TOM WARD - The health care 'we deserve'
In what is tremendous news for northern Rhode Island, Landmark Medical Center, the Woonsocket hospital with its sister Rehab Hospital of R.I in North Smithfield, has had approved by the state its purchase by Prime Healthcare Services, a for-profit hospital chain. With this, 1,100 good jobs have been saved. More importantly, patients from Burrillville, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, north Cumberland and Lincoln, and some in nearby Massachusetts in need of emergency care will not have to travel to Providence in a life-threatening event.
The city of Woonsocket and town of North Smithfield also stand to gain millions of dollars in tax revenue through the years as the hospital's buildings and equipment become taxable. For struggling Woonsocket, this is a breakthrough that will be a game-changer for the city after years of state money cuts, personnel and program reductions, and higher taxes. Finally, the Budget Commission, mayor and City Council can factor some good news into future revenues that might lessen the impact on taxpayers.
Just as importantly, the sale opens Rhode Island to the experiment of for-profit hospitals. Perhaps the trial will succeed, and give our political leaders confidence that for-profit hospitals can thrive here.
I don't pretend to understand the economics of health care, and I admit I'm perplexed. How does, on the one hand, a Landmark, with its demands on free care to low-income clients, stand on the brink of insolvency, while on the other hand, have Prime come in with an offer to buy the hospital, spend $30 million on improvements, pre-negotiate acceptable long-term agreements with employee unions, and make a profit with a five-year guarantee to not close? Darned if I know. But Prime has a track record of success with 23 other hospitals they own. Yes, owners have run afoul of the U.S. Justice Dept., accused of defrauding Medicare, a charge they vigorously deny and which has not been proven. But they have also earned national kudos for their services.
We'll just have to go down this road together, a road complicated by the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and see what happens. Or to paraphrase former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when begging House members to pass Obamacare in 2009 with little knowledge of its details, "We'll just have to sell it (Landmark) to see what's in it (Prime)."
And speaking of the Affordable Care Act, didn't anybody at all see this disaster coming? Well, in fact, yes. Republicans saw this coming. After Obamacare was passed by Democrats without a single Republican vote, Americans (outside Rhode Island, of course) rewarded them by giving the House of Representatives back to them, largely for the specific purpose of slowing or stopping the new law.
Meanwhile, the president and Congress wrote a crafty law which gave away all the freebies to voters on the front end (kids staying on parents' health care plans until age 26 "for free," or "no extra charge" coverage of pre-existing conditions). The plan was simple: Give away stuff, get the president re-elected in 2012 and then lower the boom on the uninformed in 2013 when all the pain of higher costs was to kick in.
The national sign-up and information web site is a mess, and now, people by the millions are learning of the deception as their mail arrives.
Reported NBC News on Tuesday, "President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years."
Let's just shorten that to: He lied, and he got re-elected.
My personal favorite "quote of the week" comes from the Los Angeles Times. A woman wrote to Anthem Blue Cross in California complaining about her 50 percent rate hike related to Obamacare. She wrote: "I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it." Her gripe is all at once amusing, selfish, pathetically uninformed, and naive. Wrote Alexis de Tocqueville long ago, "In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve."
Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers