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Health Care Reform: Finding Balance and Preserving Safety Net Hospitals

LHC President and CEO Wendy Z. Goldstein explains the important role safety net hospitals play within the health care ecosystem at HANYS' 42nd Annual Conference. The special Medicaid Reform Panel also included Richard Daines, M.D., N.Y.S. commissioner of health; Michael Cropp, M.D., president and CEO, Independent Health; and Kenneth Adams, president and CEO, The Business Council of N.Y.S.

Click here to see Ms. Goldstein's full presentation on YouTube.

The panel discussion on Medicaid reform, provided diverging perspectives on reform priorities, but the panelists all agreed the program needs revamping. Ms. Goldstein offered an impassioned plea for New York's safety net hospitals like Lutheran that serve diverse, low-income populations with cultural and language barriers.

About 72 percent of Lutheran's patients are medically indigent, she said, and the first 100 patients who came to the hospital on a recent Monday morning were from 57 different countries. She said health care cuts are especially devastating to safety net hospitals and that the government is unraveling the funding set aside as a public good to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are able to receive care.

"The safety net is being ripped apart," she said.

She said politicians are increasingly turning a deaf ear to the needs of undocumented immigrants because it is a politically polarizing issue. Politically palatable or not, illegal immigrants are a reality Lutheran Medical Center faces every day in its emergency room, according to Ms. Goldstein. She said hospitals become an easy villain when health care costs rise, and that "the political dialogue is not one that supports complexity." Despite this unpleasant circumstance, she said "it's our job to educate lawmakers on the complexity of health care." Ms. Goldstein pointed out that there are many cost drivers in health care for which hospitals cannot be held accountable.

"The health system, as crazy as it seems, is an ecosystem," she asserted, noting that "it needs a balance" that includes viable safety net facilities to ensure that everyone has access to care.

Ms. Goldstein's presentation on YouTube

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