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Memorial, Mary Lou and the new mayor

Tue, Apr 13, 2010

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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.

Final observations:

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.

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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Val Croke Schoenherr Says:

    John,
    Once again, I enjoy your insightful thoughts. Congratulations on all the awards. You are, in my opinion, the only thing published in our humble burg worth reading.

  2. Ken Says:

    Well First off Steven Hyde should step down as chair of the committee. He has a clear conflict of interest in talking to different companies about the sale. One of the companies he admits talking to has done a IPO to raise capitol. HCA doesnt have to hide it only Hyde does. He talks like he is a expert in healthcare. His rants make him sound worse everytime.

    John, you are correct and i unlike Hyde am a expert. With the increase of coverage capital will increase. There will have to be staffing both clinical and admin to keep up. Memorial has gone lean as of late and that can not continue. They did it to make themselves look good for sale. Thats smart. But the sale of the system for the sake of selling it is what is being attempted and its wrong. If the facts show that is the best action then great. I dont think that is the case and i dont think we will ever see the facts either. What a shame!

  3. Matt Says:

    “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.”

    No, I think you summed that up nicely. Clearly, Mr. Hyde does not have a good grasp of how hospitals are funded and how the “charity care” is calculated. Just because the hospital “writes-off” a thousand dollars does not mean that it was the actual cost of providing that care. It is just the value the hospital places on that care, based on several complex variables. The fact remains that as long as there are uninsured people receiving services at the ER, the “costs” will continue to rise. Someone has to pay that bill. Why do you think insurance premiums have risen so dramatically over the past 10 years? Healthcare reform will only serve to improve hospital fiscal health, as long as the hospital is capable of properly managing operations and access.

  4. Dave Hughes Says:

    Sell that Hospital to a for-profit company I can guarantee you prices for care will go UP!

    And I’ll bet NOBODY who has testified has brought up the programs for retired local military called ‘TriCare.’ Hospitals and doctors can refuse to treat ‘TriCare (as well as Medicare) patients.

    Wanna bet a private Memorial will drop treating retired, TriCare insured military patients? They can’t gouge patients for enough.

  5. RR Says:

    I totally agree with you, John, and it isn’t often that I do. Mary Lou was a great leader and mayor and I have missed her since the day she left office. Currently, we have a mayor and city council that doesn’t inspire, lead, or have a vision for our city. Things could be much different if we had leaders who are willing to step up and take criticism but show the citizenry what we must do to be a great city. Backbone my friend, backbone.

  6. Donna Lovelace-Flora Says:

    Yes!! Mary Lou come back! We need you now.

  7. Kathleen Foster Says:

    MaryLou, if you are even contemplating running for Mayor, you WILL have support. The city has not been the same since you left the Mayor’s office. I’m tired of slipping and sliding on ice when it snows; driving into pot holes all over the city; partisan politics which have little to nothing to do with what is BEST for our CITIZENS; city officials with no enthusiasm, insight or vision for the city or citizens of Colorado Springs. Come on, MaryLou, show (and teach) the men how to LEAD. Perhaps all city council members should participate in one or all of the leadership and board governance training classes.

  8. Barry Noreen Says:

    John, here is your nominee for the high court: http://www.appellate-counsellor.com/profiles/thomas.htm

    Go Griz.