Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 2: CHRISTUS is Unusual (Written by Abby Lowe)

Today I’ve been as sponge-like as possible. I sat in on meetings with Republicans, Democrats, Senators and Representatives. And while today’s discussions really focused on health care reform, Dr. Royer and Peter Maddox did speak about hurricane/disaster preparedness once again.

We had our first meetings with journalists today, where we answered their questions about our opinions on specific reform bills. We also spent an extensive amount of time introducing CHRISTUS, telling them about our Journey to Excellence, our experiences with tort reform, our portfolio realignment (to 1/3 acute care, 1/3 non-acute care and 1/3 international care), our partnerships in Mexico and our experiences caring for patients in some of the states with the highest uninsured rates in the U.S.

And through all of these meetings, I came to understand one important fact about CHRISTUS Health: we are weird.

I think all the legislators we met with today were shocked that we did not come to ask for more money, or to complain about health care reform. No, we came to express our support, to tell them our views about what we thought should be included, and to ask what we could do to help them in their negotiations.

And it was clear that the fact that we came in to listen as much as we came to talk and that we weren’t carrying a “No, no, no” message meant that the legislators and their staffs were much more open to sharing openly with us and hearing what we had to say.

Dr. Royer says the same things to all of them about health care reform. We support reform, and believe it should, at the most basic level, be:
• Available and accessible to everyone, paying special attention to the poor and vulnerable.
• Prevention-oriented, with the goal of enhancing the health status of communities.
• Sufficiently and fairly financed.
• Transparent and consensus-driven in allocation of resources, and organized for cost-effective care and administration.
• Patient-centered and designed to address health needs at all stages of life, from conception to natural death.
• Safe, effective and designed to deliver the greatest possible quality.

It should also include tort/medical malpractice reform, which has been a winning formula for CHRISTUS in Texas. Tort reform caps medical malpractice awards for noneconomic damages at $250,000. This means that patients who are injured by negligent medical care retain the right to full recovery for their economic damages. The people of Texas reap the rewards of tort reform as they see doctors returning to high risk locations and high risk areas of practice and as they see hospitals providing new resources for more and better medical care. Texas has become a role model for a fair, practical and lasting approach to medical malpractice reform. You can read more about the CHRISTUS experience with tort reform here.

Health care reform, Dr. Royer says, should also align physicians and hospitals, standardize care based on evidence-based principles across the country and provide quality-based incentives.

Everyone we’ve met with so far has seemed to be very open to these suggestions and interested in our experiences.

Tomorrow we meet with the Mexican Embassy, regulators and journalists. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date with all the news that’s fit to print! ~Abby

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