Politics is Local. So is Health Care.
Posted by Kurt Stuenkel, President and CEO
October 6, 2014
Soon, the fall elections will be over. New officials will assume positions of power and influence while others will return home to start a new chapter of their lives. It’s a regular cycle that is a hallmark of our republic. It is big news, and it is important. So much can change in one election.
On a state wide basis there are the perennial issues like budget and education–and health care. And, because health care is so integral to our lives, whether out of medical need or as an employer or economic engine, it is important for Floyd to keep our fingers on the pulse of what is happening locally, on a state wide basis, and in Washington.
Staying abreast of what is happening in government is not something many of us think about every day, but it is increasingly important. More and more special interests hire professional lobbyists to work on their behalf, and Georgia’s hospitals, healthcare systems and networks have to be prepared to tell our side of the story.
We get help in this regard from our associations: the Georgia Hospital Association, the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals and the American Hospital Association. But we can’t stop there. We at Floyd must be involved too.
Former United States Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said it best: “All politics is local”. We must be prepared to tell the Floyd story and be prepared to tell policy makers the effects of legislation and regulation on the home front.
A quick glance at some of our statistics helps to illustrate this point:
We are the region’s largest employer. And, when you look at health care as a whole in our community, the reach of our economic arm is considerably larger:
- Floyd has over 2,800 employees.
- Nearly 6,000 people have a job in the health care industry in Floyd County.
- Between 18,000 and 24,000 men, women and children in Floyd County depend on hospitals, physician offices and other providers for at least part of their income.
- Hospitals employ more than 126,000 people across the state. That translates to half a million people whose daily lives are dependent on the economic health of hospitals.
- Floyd’s annual payroll is more than $140 million.
- Floyd’s economic impact on the state economy is more than $640 million.
Our service delivery statistics add detail to the portrait:
- 14,080 inpatient admissions
- 77,788 Emergency Care Center visits
- 22,408 Urgent Care visits
- 134,299 Floyd Primary Care visits
Health care is important to Georgia, but it is an industry that seems to be targeted almost every legislative session. For-profit companies want to eliminate what they see as obstacles to competition, such as Georgia’s CON law. In a free-enterprise system, they argue, this is a freedom they certainly should enjoy.
The only problem with that is that health care is not free-enterprise.
The concept of gerrymandering is more than a century old. In health care, gerrymandering is taking on a different form. For-profit companies want to create boutique services for well-insured patients with a stable-income and carve the unemployed, uninsured or poor patients out of their market. There is an economic problem with that scenario. No one can afford to give away too many services and stay in business.
Last year, Floyd Medical Center gave away more than $28.1 million in care to indigent and charity patients and lost another $36.8 million in unreimbursed expenses for the care of Medicare and Medicaid patients. If Floyd is to pay fair wages, maintain a quality workforce, upgrade equipment and provide high quality care, we have to be able to provide revenue-producing services to offset those multi-million dollar losses.
Without a strong voice in government, the health of Georgia’s hospitals is threatened.
Floyd is embarking on a new government relations initiative. Our team will be monitoring what is happening and, when appropriate, seeking to be a part of the conversations that are shaping the future of Georgia health care and Floyd. They’ll also be working to tell their coworkers about the issues that affect them.
Each and every Floyd employee and family member is a part of the health care conversation in Georgia. I hope they will become more knowledgeable about the proposals elected officials are entertaining and the decisions they make. And, I hope they will make their wishes known, whether at the polls or at their personal computers. The conversations are happening with or without us. This new initiative will ensure we are both listening and speaking to the issues.
Look for more information in the coming weeks as we seek to keep you more informed, and we hope, involved.