Monday, November 14, 2011

Bergen LEADS Talks Healthcare!

By: Tom Colwell

But yes, before we jumped into Healthcare, the Class of 2012 got to meet with their teams for the 2012 Project, titled Destination Bergen. Alumni – yep - you read that right – we got to talk about our project in November! Read it and weep!

Lynne gave out some great material so we could lay the groundwork on how we needed to organize, set goals and meet deadlines. She must be one tough person to live with – I imagine a white board in her laundry room and flow charts everywhere else in her house. Do you think she is the genius behind chalkboard paint?!

OK – the DISC testing really starts to make sense here. Two minutes of letting everyone say something nice and then whammy! Our true personality designations come out. (Jacey – this is not just about you – really!) Looks like each group was brainstorming on mission and flow charts – there was a strong hum of planning at each table.

Election Day is here. As Bergen County goes…so does NJ. Bergen County is the bellweather for this state. (OH WAIT. Who is that yelling out for a definition? Caffie? The girl who showed up with a microphone on the first day – wow that was misleading – she certainly doesn’t need a microphone! Although, the blog writer might need security at future Bergen LEADS meetings - after this entry!) PLEASE VOTE. 

Our first speaker was Mike Azzara, President, Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (former President & CEO of Valley Health System). Mike shared his experience and views on the issues we are facing locally in Bergen County and as a nation.

There are 3 main issues when it comes to healthcare, according to Mike. They are Access, Cost and Quality. And among these - Quality can have the most fluctuation – it differs greatly both locally and nationally.

The US is the only industrial country that does not have some type of healthcare to cover all its citizens. As a country we spend 17% of GDP on healthcare when other countries spend closer to 11% of GDP.

Mike stated that based on his experience in running a hospital, etc that two issues have to be addressed.

First, the healthy should subsidize the sick and rates paid should include enough to subsidize the poor.

bamacare is really an insurance reform program rather than a healthcare reform program. Obamacare mandated that everyone have coverage – which was supposed to bring many healthy young people into the pool of the insured. Mike felt that it either had to be done through a mandate program or taxes. There have to be enough healthy people paying into the system to balance out and/or cover the sick people in the system.  In New Jersey hospitals are not allowed by law to turn away any patient. The cost of these patients must be covered for hospitals to survive.

Our current system in NJ also rewards volume, not value. Hospitals are paid by services provided for each visit – there is no value placed on results?

So, should government provide healthcare? Or should we leave it up to the market? How do you reduce cost and improve quality?

Buildings are not the answer – unless you realize that the more buildings you have - the more doctors you have - the larger your utilization numbers.

LUNCH TIME AND OFF WE GO TO SEE SOME GREAT ORGANIZATIONS IN BERGEN COUNTY! We always look forward to the debriefing of our visits. Each month, we continue to be amazed at what is taking place in Bergen County – programs that make huge differences in people’s lives and through that – the lives of all residents of Bergen County.

·   Holy Name Hospital
·   Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat
·   West Bergen Mental Health Center
·   North Hudson Community Action Corporation Health Center (Garfield)
·   Hackensack University Medical Center
·   Bergen Regional Medical Center

Our afternoon session was a town hall style meeting with Mike Maron President/CEO of Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck.

After Mike’s introduction, we got right to business. Holy Name was the first hospital locally to establish the policy of playing a lullaby over the loud speaker every time a new baby is born in the hospital. Yes, Holy Name! And HNMC is so advanced technologically that the lullaby is programmed so that as soon as the delivering nurse inputs the baby’s information into the hospital computer immediately after birth – bingo – we have music. There is an amazing story behind Holy Name instituting this program that I will leave for readers to ask at Holy Name. But we did talk about the positive effect it brings to the hospital atmosphere for those who are very sick and at the final stages of life.

Larry H hit Mike with a question on the Catholic association that Holy Name shares. What effect does this have on a community hospital? Good and Bad? Mike shared that he felt the association was good for Holy Name. This hospital welcomes all people and offers each a place to share their faith. HNH tries to offer surroundings where patients can heal the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of their life. Also, for a community hospital, those foundations push them to provide services, etc that are not always financially beneficial.  

Chris C asked about the term Medical Center VS Hospital. No real change in services – more along the lines of a college vs. university.

And leave it to Hans to ask about the Pascack Valley Hospital situation. Mike thought it would be question #1. The concern shared in the room was that this hospital would be run by a for-profit organization. Does that mean services at that campus will only be those that make money? Does Bergen County need more beds? Is it a bed thing? Holy Name has stayed neutral in the battle and seems to have benefitted from that position.

Rick asked about Obamacare and whether there was any truth to the so called “Death Panels.” Mike assured us that there were no death panels regarding individual cases of healthcare, but decisions made in Washington and at insurance companies on what services will be paid for and how would have more of an impact.

Mike spoke about Villa Marie Claire, the new hospice that HNH runs in Upper Saddle River. There are issues with end-of-life care in our healthcare system, and NJ ranks among the lowest according to the Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare. Doctors and families need to be educated more on the role and benefits of hospice. Currently people are entering within a few days before they pass. The hospice program should be a teaching and respite program for families, but the cost of providing these services without funding can get very high.

The last issue Mike spoke about was healthcare coverage being fragmented, inconsistent, and competitive. In order for things to get better, there either has to be more transparency among the players, or more coverage. If we had an “efficient market” (where all the players are known and the information transparent) there would be a better chance of this working. Currently that is not the case and it does not look like it is going in that direction.

Wow – another great session for Bergen LEADS. We can’t wait for December!


Lisa Gladwell ('11) said...

Great synopsis Tom!

Sam said...
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Sam said...

Healthcare is important in a community. Straightening the our healthcare system is beneficial for all. Not only this can give quality of life but healthy workforce as well.

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Dena Yard said...
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Jayden said...

I enjoyed reading the post. As a chiropractor, it is also my concern whether my patients are getting enough benefits from health care plans. This must really be fixed well that people would benefit most on them, not the companies themselves.