Lee Memorial Health System President Jim Nathan knows something about the history of health care as it relates to the recently instituted affordable health care system act.
During a three-year hiatus from serving 45 years as a high ranking official at Lee Memorial, Nathan was involved in health reform issues as a leadership consultant at the national level. The "break" came between serving as vice president from 1976 to 1981 then as president from 1982 to 1997, and resuming the latter capacity since 2000.
Nathan made a presentation on why health reform is "absolutely essential" at a recent Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Charley's Boat House Grill.
Lee Memorial Health System President Jim Nathan explained that the term “health park” came from a concept of an industrial park. That name was used to describe the hospital facilities that encompasses HealthPark Medical Services. Prior to the facilities, the property housed cucumber and potato fields, says Nathan.
"The status quo is not working. We have the finest, most expensive, most fragmented health care delivery system in the world," said Nathan. "As a result of that, we are not doing the right thing. It has been built on a repair center concept."
Nathan explained Americans fund heavily for the repair aspect, but not for the prevention.
"We are still waiting for the magic pill to cure us so that we don't have to do the hard work that it takes to live a healthy life and live a more economically efficient life," he said. "The system is not built for chronic care management, which is really essential for a community like ours that is heavily servicing retirees."
Health care should not be a political agenda.
"Virtually, everybody has access to health care. As long as they are sick enough, they wait long enough and camp out in the emergency room, we'll figure out how to take care of them," said Nathan. "Until we start standing up strong as a nation and say we need to work together and find 60 percent solutions to complex issues, we are not ready to face the music."
Medicare, the principal financing for health care, was thought to be statistically sound when it was passed in the 1960s, says Nathan. The plan would allow American citizens to have great health care benefits upon retirement. Long chronic illnesses were not factored in.
"What's been lost in the emotions of this health reform debate is that the fundamental financing system for health care for the last 50 years in this country is dying right before our eyes," he said. "We built a system where we pretended that we can have hidden taxes charged to employers to be able to care for the uninsured and the underinsured."
Nathan believes that the health care system was built upon a concept where Americans worked solely in large, industrialized companies -like General Motors or Kodak- where rates could be raised through health insurance. His two points focused on the fact that employer-sponsored health care is dying and Medicare is bankrupt.
"The reality is that we are a small employer market in a service economy where big employees have a lot more leverage to negotiate for prices," he said. "When we shifted from a concept of a community rating for insurance, that community rating meant that if somebody had a serious illness, they are pooled in with people that are healthy. Then we went to an experienced rating concept, so that if you are a small employer and have one person that has a health challenge, and the ability to be able to afford health care (became) pretty difficult."
Another factor is that the average person is living a longer life.
"Now we have half of the population that we had before in a per capita basis paying into Medicare while people are living much, much longer. It no longer is actuarially sound," said Nathan.
The so-called "Obamacare" program was a Republican platform for years. Uninsured people rose from 36 million during the Clinton administration to more than 50 million today.
"The theory was to use three elements to do two things: get half of the uninsured covered through establishing new insurance market places that would have some subsidization going for lower income individuals but not the low, low income individuals and expand Medicaid on the theory that these individuals are not going to be able to afford the health care even if you gave them a reduction in their costs but they still have jobs at minimum wage or below," said Nathan.
The goal of the Affordable Care Act is to reduce costs while improving quality for all Americans. The system in Florida may require many employers to drop health insurance as a benefit.
"This is all built on shifting away on what we've built the system on - to try to create orchestras of care on the basis that teamwork actually gets better outcomes than the fend-for-self health care system," said Nathan. "This is a game-changer. It's not just the million uninsured people that would get coverage through this expansion, it's the other 18 to 19 million residents of the state of Florida that would lose because that money will not be here for the replacement of equipment, facilities, technology, etc. that is necessary for health care. It is a clear business case."
Go to www.ahealthyfloridaworks.com to learn more about ways to extend health care coverage to more than one million uninsured, working Floridians that will create a healthier economy and a stronger state for all of us.
Lee Memorial elects 2014 Board of Directors
Lee Memorial Health System is pleased to announce the newly elected officers of its Board of Directors for 2014.
Sanford N. Cohen, M.D., will serve as Board chairman. He is former chair of the Pediatrics Department at Wayne State University School of Medicine and chief of Pediatrics for the Children's Hospital of Michigan. He also served as dean and the university's provost before retiring as a professor. Cohen served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and has an extensive history of community involvement in pediatric health care issues and research organizations.
Chris Hansen will serve as vice chairman. He is a lifelong resident of Lee County with a degree in Emergency Medical Technology from Edison State College. Hansen retired as deputy director of Lee County Public Safety and chief of EMS after nearly 30 years in public service and health care. He is owner of and lead instructor at Safeguard Academy, LLC, and an ordained elder with City Gate Ministries. Hansen is a former member of the Lee Board of County Commissioners Community Sustainability Advisory Committee, and the Florida Department of Health Public Health and Medical Preparedness Strategic Planning Oversight Team.
David F. Collins is this year's treasurer. He has been a mortgage banker for more than 20 years and has served as a board member for PACE Center for Girls of Lee County, and as treasurer for the PACE Capital Campaign. Collins has also taken part in the Executive Leadership Team for American Heart Association Heart Walk and was an AHA Red Tie Society Member.
Diane Champion will once again serve as Board secretary. Champion is a retired travel agent and real estate professional. She has served as Committee chair for children's activities of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event, and is a former elected member of the Community Council of Lehigh Acres as well as a Lee County meet-and-greet volunteer for Southwest Regional Airport.
"We appreciate the officers' level of involvement and we are thankful to have such an accomplished group working to further our commitment to provide the highest quality care," says Jim Nathan, President of Lee Memorial Health System.
The Board of Directors primary goal is to carry out the mission and vision of Lee Memorial Health System. The Board of Directors consists of ten officials, from five districts, who are elected by the people of Lee County in staggered four year terms. The Board holds regularly scheduled public meetings to set goals and objectives and to hear recommendations from the System's administrative and medical staffs. The public is encouraged to attend.