Via Christi CEO: Let’s work together on health care system

02/24/2012 12:00 AM

02/24/2012 9:54 AM

It is no secret that America’s current model of delivering health care to its citizens is unsustainable. The question is what to do about it. Regardless of what happens at the government level, change is coming to health care.

America spends more than 17 percent of its economy on health care, nearly twice that of the next highest-cost nation. Yet our health outcomes are the worst in the developed world.

At a Kansas Hospital Association meeting, health care futurist Ian Morrison, PhD, explained that a modest health insurance plan for a family of four costs as much as the lease on one of Cadillac’s nicest vehicles. Not many families can afford to lease a luxury car, nor can they afford the cost of health care as it exists in our country today.

The first baby boomers have just become eligible for Medicare. In fact, 7,000 Americans a day are now becoming eligible, putting an even greater strain on the federal government to pay for health care when there is already a budget crisis.

Employers, along with the government — and the taxpayers who pay the government’s bills — bear most of the cost of providing health care coverage. They have told us that they can no longer afford rising health care costs. We must change in order for our businesses to be competitive globally, and for the people of our country to afford health care.

Via Christi must be a leader in changing the course of health care to be more patient- and resident-centered and more affordable. Few organizations have the medical staff, hospital system and senior services ministry that we at Via Christi have to meet the needs of those we serve in a more effective and affordable way. We have the tools to do this, but it will take innovative new models of care to realize this goal and be the leader our communities deserve. We look forward to our continuing and expanding collaborations to improve health care and health for our patients, residents and citizens.

We have begun piloting a new model of care delivery, connecting patients with a primary care medical home where health programs — especially chronic problems which account for 75 percent of America’s health care costs — can be identified and managed early. This reduces avoidable visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations and keeps patients in the most convenient and affordable venue for treatment.

Another effective model is Via Christi HOPE — a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. This program is an example of Via Christi’s commitment to its mission of being a healing presence with a special concern for our neighbors who are vulnerable. By providing services ranging from medical visits to medical transportation, physical therapy and an adult day program, HOPE saves 25 percent compared to the State of Kansas caring for Medicare and Medicaid eligible seniors outside of the program. The savings rises to 35 percent for every individual who would otherwise be cared for in a nursing home.

All of us will need to work together to change the current health care system — how we provide care, pay for care, incentivize healthy behaviors and care for ourselves. Transforming health care in America is a journey. But, it is a journey we have already begun.

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