“One way to define wisdom is the ability to see, into the future, the consequences of your choices in the present. That ability can give you a completely different perspective on what the future might look like.”
These prophetic words by Alabama author Andy Andrews seem very appropriate for the discussions around health care in Alabama. With debate stalled in Washington over the future of the Affordable Care Act and the future uncertain in Alabama over the delivery system for Medicaid, now seems the right time to peer into the future to inform our choices in the present.
By working together, Alabama’s business community and health care community, including physicians, nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance carriers, and other health care providers and professionals can inform each other and policy makers about how best to solve the problems facing those who access the health care system and marketplace.
This collaborative approach is the only one that has proven to produce results on any major issue facing our state or our country, and there is no debate about the existence of major challenges in the health care space.
For example, Alabama’s health care economy is one of our largest economic drivers. Talent and a strong workforce are primary deciding factors for job creation as is quality of life. Tomorrow’s talent wants to live where quality of life is second to none.
And while research facilities in our state are doing amazing work and literally saving people’s lives, Alabama ranks in the top 10 in the wrong kind of categories such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer that impede economic production and increase costs.
Often overlooked are those on the front lines in the trenches delivering care at hospitals and in doctors’ offices day in and day out. These are the ones best equipped to provide solutions. For example, Associations representing doctors and hospitals both agree that the Alabama Medicaid program is more than an insurance program for the poor and underinsured and must be appropriately funded as a critical component to the health care infrastructure of our state. And when you look at the facts, it’s easy to see why the broader business community such as the Business Council of Alabama agrees: Alabama Medicaid provides health coverage for eligible children, pregnant women, and severely disabled and impoverished adults – about 1 million Alabamians who otherwise would be without health care.
These front-line professionals and providers are also the ones who bear the brunt of the burden for liability such as the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits. For this reason, discussions have surfaced regarding legal reforms for the current medical malpractice system and caps on non-economic damages. While reforming the system to reduce frivolous suits and their attendant costs, we must collectively take care to protect the rights of patients. In any event, legal reform must be predicated on improving the existing system and protecting the constitutional right to trial by jury for all – patients, doctors, nurses, and others.
The BCA believes that abolishing the existing liability system and replacing it with an untested European-style “Patient Compensation System” would be a step in the wrong direction. Any attempt to promote this initiative would be both misguided, counterproductive and we would oppose those efforts.
Whether it’s addressing Medicaid funding or legal reforms to medical malpractice, state officials should keep in mind these primary objectives:
- Reducing health care costs,
- Promoting patient safety and,
- Maintaining or improving access to quality medical care.
Our system should allow those providing health care services to do what they do best, practice medicine and deliver high-quality care not having to worry about frivolous lawsuits or filling out needless paperwork. Our system should also allow citizens in Alabama to access quality, affordable health care.
Alabama has a great responsibility to get health care right. A flourishing health care system, just like education and infrastructure, is a pillar of economic development. These foundational systems must be improved for Alabama to reach its full potential.
If we get it right, it can be a pro-active Rx for job creation for years to come!