Q: How big is the problem of the uninsured for your organization now?
A: (The uninsured) are a significant fraction of the care we provide, pretty similar to what other hospitals are experiencing in the area. We have the added level that we are a Level One Trauma Center, one of four such trauma centers in the state, so we obviously care for a lot of injured individuals, many of which do not have insurance. For us, I would say it is a higher problem than for most health systems in the region because of the trauma service that we provide.
Q: Will health care reform go forward after this election?
A: Regardless of who (won or lost) on Tuesday, that looming problem of increasing health care burden, increasing number of uninsured that are helping to drive the cost of health care for all of us, that will have to be addressed. And neither party will be able to turn back and not face that problem. The problem with the current bill is that it is primarily addressing health care payment. It's important for the readers to know it doesn't really address access except in an indirect way. And it doesn't address health care reform at all, other than from very indirect incentives. So it is primarily a payment reform, which hopefully will then allow access and then somehow change the way we practice health care.
Q: How will the relationship between hospitals and physicians change in the future, particularly under the health care reform?
I should note that academic health centers are uniquely poised to face health care reform. We are obviously not the majority of the health care of the country, but we have had long - term experience in partnering with physicians. The physicians that are part and parcel of our academic health center are very invested in it. A s an academic health center, we are pretty uniquely poised to experiment, to try new methods of therapy, to create accountable care organizations, because we have that structure. And that's why I think it is important for Augusta that such an academic health center exists, just because it allows us to partner with other health systems and guide that part.
Q: How will things change for patients?
If you're uninsured and you have a disorder, an illness, now you are going to be able to get insurance, and that really is an excellent thing, right? You're going to be able to get some preventive care at some level. But it is going to be uncomfortable for many levels of our patients. But some will openly benefit. And in the long run, I think benefits will be seen. In the long run, if this is a successful reform, patients are going to see improved quality as hospitals compete on measurables that they haven't been seeing yet. We are going to basically see better health overall as people have more access to preventive care and the overall health of the population improves.