Health care reform concerns shared at local chamber event

Health care reform concerns shared at local chamber event
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Federal health care reform is having a major impact on hospitals as well as insurance companies across America and will continue to impact Americans for future generations.
That was the message delivered early today by Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City administrator and CEO Skipper Bondurant and local insurance agent Mary Nita Bondurant. The two speakers (no relation) highlighted the Obion County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Matters program at the Obion County Public Library.
More than 30 people attended today’s hour-long program. The crowd was a mixture of local business leaders, chamber officials, health care officials and several local residents.
Mrs. Bondurant, senior vice president of employee benefits at Union City Insurance Co., announced this morning, “On Jan. 1st, 2014, the way that I do business will dramatically change. Health care reform is sure to impact the way health insurance is delivered in Tennessee through the availability of exchanges and alternatives that we don’t currently have.”
She outlined some of the numerous changes coming under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which she said was designed to protect consumers from abuses by the insurance industry.
Basically, the act will mean almost everyone will be required to have health insurance in America. But many Obion Countians are already facing some tough health care coverage decisions heading into this coming new year.
Neither of today’s two speakers directly addressed the conflict between Baptist Memorial Health Care and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. It is that conflict that is forcing some tough decisions by many local residents concerning their health care coverage.
Both speakers said health care reform is a very complex issue. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 covers 906 pages, according to Mrs. Bondurant, who said she has “read everything I can get my hands on” dealing with health care reform.
Skipper Bondurant relied on a detailed PowerPoint presentation to supplement his speech about health care reform in America. He used a diverse array of charts, diagrams and statistics to illustrate how health care costs are skyrocketing in this country. He referred to a New York Times quote that stated health care costs are higher in the United States than any other advanced nation in the world.
He stated the U.S. spends more on health care than on food.
He explained health care costs are directly impacted by such factors as development costs, legal costs and marketing costs.
In his own words, the statistics related to national health care are “staggering.”
His broad overview of health care reform showed there were 46 million Americans without health insurance in 2011. The uninsured is one of the contributing factors to skyrocketing health care costs, along with the country’s obesity rate, according to Bondurant.
“It’s staggering … unbelievable,” he said about America’s obesity rate, adding there are some who believe obesity is a “national crisis” in America.
The local hospital administrator went on to state health care reform is expected to cost $950 billion over the next decade.
“We at Baptist believe we are set up well to deal with the reform package,” he said.
He added the local hospital is in a “good position” to deal with health care reform.
Following the 45-minute presentation by the two speakers, a 15-minute question-and-answer session was dominated by specific health care questions from those in the audience.
Hogan statement
Although this morning’s Business Matters program didn’t deal directly with the conflict between Baptist Memorial Health Care and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, a statement from former Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City administrator David Hogan does provide some pertinent insight into the Baptist group’s position.
“When Obion County General Hospital affiliated with Baptist Memorial Health Care in 1982, Baptist inherited an aging facility in need of renovation,” Hogan stated. “During the next 30 years, Baptist added 85,000 square feet of space, tripled the size of the emergency department, added an outpatient services department and completed several other renovation projects. Today, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City has a sleep lab, a cancer center and a heart catheterization lab. You won’t find those services in most communities Union City’s size.”
He further stated Baptist Memorial Health Care has invested millions of dollars “to help ensure this community has a top-notch health care facility. National organizations such as the Joint Commission, Gallup, Press Ganey and the Tennessee Hospital Association have awarded the hospital for the work it does. On three occasions, Modern Healthcare magazine has named Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City a Best Place to Work. And thousands of patients each year trust Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City to care for them and their loved ones.”
He explained there are “harsh realities that come with providing health care in a small community.”
Hogan stated Baptist Memorial Health Care spent $2.5 million more on Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City than the hospital earned last year alone.
“Despite that, within the past year, Baptist recruited two physicians, purchased a physician clinic to help ensure it could continue to treat patients, paid $21 million in employee salaries and benefits and provided nearly $8 million in community benefit,” he said. “Baptist is able to make this kind of investment by redistributing the money earned from other facilities. Simply put, Baptist’s larger hospitals support its community hospitals, including Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City.
Hogan, who worked for  Baptist Memorial Health Care for nearly 30 years, defended the health care agency’s integrity and commitment to Union City, saying, “I can assure you that Baptist is committed to providing the best health care possible to this community. I also know that Baptist leaders believe in honoring their word and fulfilling their obligations.”
“On the other hand, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee went back on its word by attempting to terminate contract terms for Baptist’s participation in the S Network when the contract stated that they would ‘remain in effect’ until 2015. BlueCross’ solution to the problem it created was to try to force Baptist to sign prejudicial amendments to this same contract, instead of enforcing it against BlueCross,” Hogan stated. “Baptist will hold BlueCross to its word and, in the meantime, Baptist will continue treating S Network patients. Soon we will know for sure whether BlueCross will allow it or will try to penalize patients.”
Hogan said he was involved in the transformation of the local hospital as it has grown into an advanced health care facility with leading-edge technology and first class amenities.
“Baptist transformed this facility for you, and its leaders are doing everything they can to ensure you can continue to rely on Baptist for your health care,” he stated. “Thirty years ago, the leaders of Obion County General Hospital trusted Baptist, and health care in this community thrived as a result. Today, I’m asking you to trust that Baptist is doing what’s best for Union City.”
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 12.18.12

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