For my many sins – and because our health care reporter, Amy Gillentine, was busy at the Space Symposium – it fell to me to cover this afternoon’s meeting of the “Memorial Commission.”
The meeting featured brief remarks by former mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, who left office in 2003.
Mary Lou spoke concisely, briefly, and intelligently. She had, and has, the gift of defusing hot-button political issues, and framing them in sensible, down to earth terms.
She said that the commission should not see its charge to be that of recommending whether or not Memorial should be sold, but to figure out what most benefits the community.
She noted that the ownership issue has always been politicized, and that many of those who have called for the city to divest itself of the health care system have done so for ideological reasons unrelated to Memorial’s performance, or to the good of the community.
“Our direction to Memorial was always the same,” she said. “Serve all who come to your doors, and don’t ask us (city government) for money.”
She then politely responded to questions from members of the commission, some of whom seemed eager to prove that her observations about ideological bias were factual.
One member didn’t bother to ask a question, instead treating those in attendance to a brief rant about “government-run health care.”
Commission chair Steve Hyde took advantage of his position to interject frequent comments, including a rambling riff on the impact of recent health care legislation. He said that some people predict that hospitals will no longer have to absorb the bulk of indigent care costs, since two-thirds of the presently uninsured will be covered by Medicaid or private insurance.
However, he added, hospitals will be at risk, citing studies that indicate that Medicare reimbursements only cover 91 percent of hospital costs. He added darkly that we may be in a situation where “thousands of hospitals fail, because they just won’t be able to make it.”
Let’s see – if hospitals get substantially reimbursed by Medicaid or by private insurers for care that they now provide without any payment, why would that put them in such financial peril? 91 percent is better than no percent, isn’t it? But maybe I just don’t understand the arcana of health care reimbursement.
1. Such commissions waste the time of the civic-minded residents who volunteer their time to serve. Typically, they’re required to deal with thorny, highly politicized issues that are essentially insoluble. There’s no particular reason to sell Memorial, other than to protect the city from having to subsidize it with general fund money. That’s not going to happen-and if that’s even remotely likely, why would a private entity want to buy it? So that they can lose money? But the anti-city, anti-government folks have the bit between their teeth now, and they’ll try to get the issue on the ballot, regardless of the facts.
2. Where are you, Mary Lou Makepeace?/The city turns its lonely eyes to you. I’d forgotten what a pleasure it was to have a mayor who could lead, not stumble, a mayor who could inspire her city to build, not tear down, a mayor who was tough, matter-of-fact, and absolutely incorruptible. Mary Lou, come back! And if you’re worried about getting elected, I know how to guarantee your victory.
I’ll run against you.